Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday hit the reset button for his Cabinet and inducted 43 new ministers. Before the big deletion and addition to his jumbo Cabinet, it was reported that a lot of factors were taken into account. Performances of ministers and their respective ministries in the midst of the pandemic, an attempt to give his Cabinet a ‘young and fresh look’, and most importantly Uttar Pradesh elections were seen factors taken into consideration before deciding upon the names. Setting the correct caste combination while picking names from UP was a major task for the decision-makers before the Cabinet reshuffle.
UP and the Caste Arithmetic
Seven new ministers – more than one-fifth of the inclusion- are from Uttar Pradesh, which goes to the polls next year. The council of ministers is now having participation of 15 members from the poll-bound state. Keeping an eye on the OBC vote bank of the most populous state, PM Modi has given a larger chunk of the pie to the representatives of backward sections of the society.
In a clear indication to strengthen the party base in UP and an attempt to connect with the backward community, PM Modi inducted Anupriya Patel, chief of Apna Dal, into the Cabinet. Small but a key ally of the BJP, the Apna Dal is in coalition with NDA at present. The party finds its support base mainly in the Kurmi community in the region of Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh. The community has always flaunted a major vote share in the state.
Keeping an eye on Assembly elections in the state, Anupriya had demanded the formation of a ministry for OBC on the lines of the Ministry of Minorities to solve the problems of the backward classes, reports said. Apna Dal had also demanded that the recommendations of the Swaminathan Commission be implemented so that farmers can get a fair share of their produce.
Anurpiya who was given a central berth in the previous NDA government from 2014-2019, was left out in the second term of the Modi government. On Wednesday, she has managed to stage a comeback and got the Minister of States for Commerce and Industry portfolio. However, her husband Ashish Singh Patel has still not found a mention of the Yogi Adityanath-led state government in Uttar Pradesh.
How much gains the BJP makes by Anupriya Patel's inclusion in the cabinet would only be seen in 2022.
Pankaj Choudhary, who has represents BJP in Lok Sabha from Maharajganj. The six-time MP, who belongs to Gorakhpur, is expected to throw his weight behind Chief Minister Yogi Adityananth. The idiom ‘slow and steady wins the race’ is apt for Choudhary as he slowly climbed the ladder to be a Union minister. Having served as Councillor, Mayor before becoming an MP, he has vast experience of handling public offices which will come handy in his role as Minister of State in the Ministry of Finance. Chaudhary too belongs to the OBC category.
In an attempt to win the hearts of the Dalits, ministers like Prof. SP Singh Baghel, Kaushal Kishore, and Bhanu Pratap Verma have also been included in the Cabinet.
SP Baghel - From UP CM's PSO to Union Minister
SP Baghel was an interesting induction. A former Sub Inspector in the Uttar Pradesh Police, Prof. SP Singh Baghel is now Minister of State in the Ministry of Law and Justice. Interestingly, Baghel was once the Chief Minister’s personal security officer (PSO) of then Chief Minister Mulayam Singh Yadav. Baghel, who is said to be close to Amit Shah, hails from Bhatpura in the Auraiya district of Uttar Pradesh and is said to be quite a popular face in Agra. The BJP will certainly look to gain mileage from his inclusion in the Modi Cabinet.