On November 8, the day she got the call from the Prime Minister’s Office informing her of her induction as Minister of State of Food Processing, Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti was delivering religious sermons at her ashram in Moosa Nagar, Kanpur Dehat.
The second sadhvi in the union council of ministers after Uma Bharti, the 47-year-old Jyoti is a katha vachak (one who delivers religious sermons) and a first-time MP from Fatehpur constituency in Uttar Pradesh. She won her debut election in 2012 from the Hamirpur assembly constituency.
On June 14, days after she was elected to the Lok Sabha, Jyoti was attacked at a private function that she was attending in the Civil Lines area of Fatehpur district. She met the chief secretary after the incident, alleging SP workers were spreading rumours about a bypoll in Fatehpur and trying to kill her to facilitate a bypoll.
Jyoti, who is now the BJP state vice-president, was earlier VHP central secretary and had held the post of BJP state secretary in UP.
Jyoti’s affidavit filed before the Lok Sabha elections had mentioned a non-cognisable offence which includes charges under IPC sections relating to criminal intimidation, voluntarily causing hurt adultery. “All these cases are baseless. The Fatehpur police filed these false cases against me on March 19, soon after my name was announced as a candidate for the Lok Sabha elections. It was Samajwadi Party workers who had attacked the BJP office in Fatehhpur but the police registered a case against me and not against them,” she said on the phone from Rajajipuram in Lucknow, where she was delivering a Bhagwat Katha discourse.
Jyoti belongs to the Nishad community of boatmen who live along major riverbanks and form a major vote-bank in UP. She is the third backward caste minister from UP in Modi’s council, after Santosh Gangwar (MP from Bareilly) and Uma Bharti (who represents Jhansi).
Party sources say their induction will help the BJP attract backward caste votes in the 2017 assembly polls since the party lacks a backward face in the state after former chief minister Kalyan Singh moved to Rajasthan as Governor.