Since her induction as Union minister of state for health and family welfare, Apna Dal MP Anupriya Patel has held dozens of roadshows and public meetings in more than three dozen districts of Uttar Pradesh. Sources close to her said all this is an effort to establish herself as a leader of Kurmi caste in eastern UP as well as an inheritor of her father’s political legacy amid an ongoing feud with her mother over the control of their party What has helped the Mirzapur MP’s effort is that the BJP has invited her to lead and participate in the party’s parivartan yatra which will be flagged off by Amit Shah from Sonbhadra on Tuesday.
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The BJP hasn’t been promoting any other Kurmi leader, although it has former BJP state president Om Prakash Singh and Rajya Sabha MP Vinay Katiyar. Singh’s son Anurag, in fact, had hoped for the BJP ticket to Mirzapur but Anupriya instead contested it as an ally. Singh told The Indian Express it was a decision of the BJP leadership to invite her so he could not comment on it. “She is among the leaders who will address the public during the yatra. There will be other leaders too. I have limited by political activity for the last one year, so I cannot say anything,” he said.
Singh said besides Anupriya, Katiyar and BJP state general secretary Swatantra Dev Singh, another Kurmi leader who hails from Bundelkhand will be among the participants of the yatra. When contacted, Katiyar did not say discuss the importance being given to Anupriya by his party. He said he is yet to be invited to any programme of the party. Anupriya has already visited as many as 40 Kurmi-populated districts since her induction as minister in July. At least two of her visits led to clashes with other parties. In September, her roadshow led to clashes with alleged SP supporters in Raniganj area of Pratapgarh district. On Thursday, supporters of Congress MLA Laliteshpati Tripathi allegedly obstructed her vehicle in Mirzapur.
In addition to all the districts in eastern and central UP, she has also addressed public meetings in Bareilly, Pilibhit and Badaun in western UP. Tej Bali Singh, a party leader, said Patel has visited the districts as part of her “aabhar(gratitude) yatra”. Anupriya is embroiled in a feud with her mother, Krishna Patel and elder sister Pallavi, over the control of Apna Dal, a party founded by her late father Sonelal Patel. The dispute over the control of the party is currently in the high court. After Anupriya’s induction as a union minister, Krishna announced her party is no more in alliance with the BJP. Krishna has been touch with non-BJP parties including Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar, who has addressed several rallies in UP in recent months and is said to be keen on his party playing a role in the coming assembly elections.
A leader from the Union minister’s camp said both sides have registered their parties in case they lose control of the existing outfit. Anupriya is in the process of registering her party as Apna Dal (Sonelal), according to a leader. Kurmis in UP are perceived as not strictly attached to any one party or leader. The BJP has tried to woo the caste group as part of its attempt to bring all non-Yadav OBC castes into its fold before 2017 assembly elections. Before 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the party had run a campaign to collect iron from farmers for building the statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, an icon for Kurmis.