It’s been a dizzying rise for Sanjay Jaiswal in the Bihar BJP. In February 2005, he had contested from Bettiah Assembly constituency on an RJD ticket and lost miserably. By 2009, he had moved to the BJP, and would go on to win the Lok Sabha election from Paschim Champaran thrice. By September 2019, he was the president of the Bihar BJP unit.
At the same time, the BJP is Jaiswal’s natural home. His father Madan Prasad Jaiswal had been an active Sangh Parivar activist and was one of the founding members of the BJP. A three-term Lok Sabha MP, he represented Bettiah Lok Sabha constituency from 1996 to 2004.
When the BJP was selecting a state president, this worked in Jaiswal’s favour. Along with the fact that, as a practising medical doctor, belonging to the Vaishya community, Jaiswal fit well with the BJP’s search for the right man and right caste for the post.
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Jaiswal, 55, had another qualification — he was not strongly disapproved of by any factions in the state unit. While many saw his promotion as a bid to cut Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Kumar Modi to size, with a leader belonging to the same community, that theory wasn’t strong enough to hold Jaiswal back. The BJP is hoping to register its best performance in Bihar in the coming Assembly elections, and Modi’s perceived proximity to JD(U) leader and Chief Minister Nitish Kumar — a fellow product of the JP Movement — doesn’t really gel with those plans.
Jaiswal is believed to enjoy the confidence of Bhupender Yadav, the BJP general secretary in charge of the state. Party insiders say his performance in the Lok Sabha has been taken note of by both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah, and he was also appointed chief whip of the party in the Lower House.
While seen as not much of a mass leader, Jaiswal appears to have filled that gap too since the coronavirus pandemic, with the BJP launching a series of social activities, including food packet distribution, call centre assistance for migrants and free medical camps, during and after the lockdown.
Party leaders say Jaiswal’s father always intended him to inherit his political legacy, though his brother Deepak is also in politics. Jaiswal did his MBBS from Patna Medical College, followed by MD from Darbhanga Medical College. His wife is also a doctor.
In 2005, Jaiswal accepted an RJD ticket only after Jaiswal Senior’s attempt to get him one from the BJP failed. In that election, he had got just 7,000 votes and trailed in at fourth spot, with BJP leader Renu Devi winning the seat.
Jaiswal had finally managed to get a BJP ticket only after his father’s death, and has retained the Paschim Champaran seat now in the 2009, 2014 and the 2019 Lok Sabha polls.
BJP leaders say Jaiswal’s biggest strength remains his proximity with the leaders at the centre as well as his ability to take everyone along. “He is a hard worker and has got a clean and suave image that appeals to the BJP’s support base,” says a party leader. Even Nitish wouldn’t disagree, the leader adds. “Although he belongs to the camp that does not appreciate the Chief Minister much, Nitish can’t find much to crib against him.”