The BJP’s move to appoint Rajya Sabha member Shiv Pratap Shukla as a Minister of State in the Union government is being seen by the party’s state cadre as a bid to balance power equations in the Gorakhpur region of eastern Uttar Pradesh. Shukla is a prominent Brahmin face of the party in eastern UP and party leaders in the region are seeing his induction also as a compensation after the exit of Kalraj Mishra, a Brahmin MP from Deoria, as Union minister.
According to BJP leaders, Shukla, also from Gorakhpur, had strained relations with CM Yogi Adityanath in the past. Shukla won consecutive Assembly elections from Gorakhpur Sadar in 1989, 1991, 1993 and 1996 as a BJP candidate. He served as Cabinet minister in BJP governments and was among the most influential party leaders in the Gorakhpur region for more than a decade. During this time, he was believed to be the power centre of the government and party in eastern UP, said BJP leaders.
However, all this changed when he lost to Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha nominee Radha Mohan Das Agrawal in the 2002 general election. Sources in BJP said Adityanath had openly backed Agrawal in the election after the party fielded Shukla. Then PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee and CM Rajnath Singh addressed public meetings in support of Shukla but he lost.
Agrawal later joined the BJP and was fielded in the Assembly elections of 2007, 2012 and 2017. With the support of Adityanath, Agrawal won each of these elections. Shukla did not contest any election during this period and the party named him the state unit vice-president for three terms. He still holds the post.
“Despite a defeat in the 2002 Assembly elections, Shukla continued to work for the party. Now he has been rewarded with a ministerial berth. After Adityanath was sworn in as CM, Shukla has been attending all his events in Gorakhpur,” said a party leader. “When the CM is from Gorakhpur, picking a leader as Union Minister from the same district creates a possibility of the emergence of a new power centre,” said a BJP leader in Gorakhpur.
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State BJP spokesperson Rakesh Tripathi, however, denied the creation of any new power centre in Gorakhpur. “The party has made a balanced move. Among the two MPs inducted as ministers, one is an experienced politician from eastern UP (Shukla) and the other (Satya Pal Singh) is a retired administrative officer from western UP,” Tripathi said.