In a show of faith in leaders from party’s Uttar Pradesh unit, BJP national president Amit Shah has appointed as many as seven of them as in-charge of other states.
Dinesh Sharma, currently in his second term as Lucknow mayor, has been given the charge of Gujarat. Coming after his appointment as vice-president in the national team declared in August, Sharma’s new responsibility is a clear indication of his emergence as a new Brahmin face in UP BJP.
A senior party leader observes that by getting charge of Gujarat, “Sharma unofficially becomes the most powerful BJP leader in UP as he is now considered close to (Prime Minister) Narendra Modi and Shah.”
Sharma, a professor of Commerce in Lucknow University, said: “I do not believe that my appointment as in-charge of Gujarat was announced because I belong to a particular caste. All I can say is I will execute all the responsibilities and meet the expectations of the party.”
Sharma isn’t the only Brahmin face that Shah has given prominence to when picking leaders from the state. Shrikant Sharma, another Brahmin leader from western UP and who is also the party’s national secretary, has been given the charge of Himachal Pradesh.
Both Dinesh and Shrikant were strong contenders for Lok Sabha ticket from Lucknow and Mathura, respectively, but had to relinquish when then national president Rajnath Singh decided to contest from Lucknow and the party chose Hema Malini as the candidate for Mathura.
In an attempt to extend its support-base among Dalits, Shah has appointed second-time MP from Agra, Ram Shankar Katheria, a Dalit, as the in-charge of Chhattisgarh and Punjab.
Inducted as the party’s national general secretary two months ago, Katheria’s elevation is being seen as a strategic move to attract Dalit vote-bank of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) in UP ahead of the 2017 Assembly elections.
But Katheria isn’t merely the party’s Dalit face. Born in Etawah and having spent his early days at the local RSS unit which also facilitated his education, Katheria inculcated the outfit’s ideology before becoming a professor of Hindi in Agra University where he imparts lessons on Dalit Chetna besides writing several books on the subject. He has been RSS’s Agra unit Pracharak for 13 years.
RSS’s imprint on Shah’s selection of leaders from UP becomes more clear with the party president appointing Mahendra Singh as the in-charge of Assam, a state where RSS wants its members and those of Akhil Bharatiya Karyakari Mandal to increase its activities.
A member of UP Legislative Council, Mahendra Singh himself is a former worker of Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad, the student wing of RSS. Singh has also held the post of state general secretary in the past. He was not allotted any major responsibility in UP, but was given charge of certain constituencies in Haryana and before that Rajasthan in Assembly polls.
Party national secretary Arun Singh, who belongs to Mathura but is currently based in Noida, has been given the charge of Odisha.
Likewise, national secretary Siddharth Nath Singh, grandson of former Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri and who hails from Allahabad, is the in-charge of West Bengal where Assembly elections are scheduled in 2016.
Party national secretary Anil Jain, who belongs to Firozabad and is based in Delhi, will be the in-charge of Haryana where BJP is set to form the government after its win in the assembly elections held recently.