The BJP top brass on Wednesday appointed Mahendra Nath Pandey, a first-time MP and junior minister in the Narendra Modi cabinet, the party president of Uttar Pradesh. By making Pandey the state party chief, the BJP has chosen a Brahmin to replace an OBC face —- previous state unit chief Keshav Prasad Maurya —- while a Thakur is chief minister.
Maurya offered his resignation as state president after taking oath as deputy chief minister. Pandey is the MP from Chandauli, the district adjacent to Varanasi.
BJP sources said Pandey’s appointment could be an attempt by the party top brass to appease Brahmin voters and leaders in the party who were dissatisfied after Adityanath was made the chief minister.
As Pandey is an MP from eastern Uttar Pradesh, the region now has one more leader in the top slots of the BJP. Prime Minister Modi is the Lok Sabha member from Varanasi and Adityanath is from Gorakhpur. Pandey belongs to Ghazipur district, but had contested the Lok Sabha election from Chandauli.
Pandey, 59, is considered close to both Modi and BJP national president Amit Shah. He is now Minister of State for HRD and was inducted in the Modi Cabinet in July last year.
Party insiders said Pandey is from an RSS background and was an active leader in the Akhil Bharatiya Vidhyarthi Parishad (ABVP). He was also elected the general secretary of the Banaras Hindu University (BHU) students’ union as an ABVP nominee.
“Mahendra Nath is known as a person of organisation who has good knowledge about organisational affairs. He has held various posts in the state organisation in the past,” said a senior BJP leader.
The new state BJP chief is also chairperson of the vigilance and monitoring committee for development projects in Modi’s constituency and remains in constant touch with the Prime Ministers’ Office. He is among ministers who frequently visit the Varanasi constituency office of Modi to redress grievances of local public. Pandey had been the BJP MLA from Saidpur constituency in Ghazipur district in 1991 and 1996 and was also a minister in governments led by Kalyan Singh and Rajnath Singh.
He has also served as party state general secretary and been president of its Kashi regional unit. He was also given responsibility of being election officer in the party’s organisational elections held in the state unit last year. He lost the Assembly election from Saidpur in 1993 and Lok Sabha election from Bhadohi in 2009.