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Political climate heats up with talk of Cabinet reshuffle

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on June 12, 2021

Prime Minister Narendra Modi talking to UP Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath   -  PTI

PM meets party chief JP Nadda, Home Minister Amit Shah and Yogi Adityanath in what is considered a ‘stocktaking exercise’ ahead of UP Polls

Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a series of meetings with the BJP chief JP Nadda, Home Minister Amit Shah and Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath amid talk of a reshuffle both at the Centre and the State.

While the UP Chief Minister was closeted with the PM for about an hour after a series of high-profile review meetings in Lucknow fuelled speculations of a Cabinet expansion and a possible change in leadership in the poll-bound State. Assembly elections are due in UP early next year, the PM has also been having daily meetings with Nadda and met with three or four ministers in what is called a “stock-taking exercise”. There is a window till the expected monsoon session of Parliament in mid-July during which certain gaps, such as accommodating Congress rebel Jyotiraditya Scindia, have to be filled. With the UP CM, the talks reportedly centreed around administrative and organisational issues such as inauguration of the Poorvanchal Expressway and Jevar airport. Yogi Adityanath was also reportedly told to adopt a conciliatory approach in governance.

Although the BJP has ruled out shifting Aditiyanath from the CM’s post given his hard Hindutva credentials, fan-following and the strong base among the Thakurs who form about 7-8 per cent of the State’s vote base, the BJP is looking to tailor his Cabinet to suit caste equations and administrative acumen. This may mean the induction of former IAS officer and currently BJP MLC and PM’s trusted AK Sharma, who had taken early retirement to proceed to UP last year. Sharma too was reportedly in Delhi to meet with the party leaders. Another aspirant for accommodation in the possible Cabinet expansion in UP is Jitin Prasada of Congress, who joined the BJP a day ahead of the CM’s visit.

‘Courtesy call’

Adityanath, on his part, described his meeting with the PM as a “courtesy” call. “It was a courteous meeting in which I was given a lot of guidance. I am heartily grateful to the PM for finding time in his busy schedule to guide me with such affection,” he said on his official twitter handle. He said more or less the same about his meetings with the Nadda later in the day. He had also met the Home Minister Amit Shah on Thursday.

‘Assuaging sentiments’

These meetings assume significance because the BJP has fared poorly in the panchayat elections last month. It suffered defeat across the State but even more significantly in key religious towns of Ayodhya, Varanasi, Mathura, Prayagraj and Gorakhpur. These are signs that the perception of favouritism towards the Thakurs (a caste that the CM himself belongs) in terms of appointments in key positions and control over the police apparatus, mismanagement of the Covid-19 pandemic has caused disenchantment with the State BJP.

The party’s central command dispatched senior general secretary BL Santhosh to the state last month to review the preparations for assembly elections. Senior leader and the party’s UP in-charge Radha Mohan Singh had also visited Lucknow. Jitin Prasada, a prominent Brahmin face in UP where this caste comprises 13 per cent of the electorate, is critical to the BJP’s fortunes. The expectation is that Adityanath will assuage the simmering discontent among the Brahmins by accommodating Jitin Prasada and Sharma – in the Cabinet.

Published on June 11, 2021

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