BJP tries its own social engineering

Apr 9 2016 1:54AM

NEW DELHI: BJP on Friday replaced the chiefs of five state units, with party president Amit Shah choosing a "backward" tea vendor Keshav Prasad Maurya to head the party in Uttar Pradesh while completing the rehabilitation of former Karnataka chief minister B S Yeddyurappa by giving him the reins of the organisation in the state.

In another interesting choice, Shah gave the charge of Punjab to Union minister Vijay Sampla, a Dalit who worked as a loader in a mandi before going to the Gulf as a plumber.

Maurya, Yeddyurappa (both OBCs) and Sampla have succeeded their Brahmin colleagues Lakshmi Kant Bajpai, Prahlad Joshi and Kamal Sharma, in what marks a conscious effort by the leadership to extend the party beyond its traditional constituency.

Shah nominated another OBC member, K Laxman, as president of the unit in Telangana, the country's youngest state. Former party MP Tapir Gao was appointed the new BJP chief in Arunachal Pradesh.

Maurya, who represents Phulpur, is a Kushwaha, a horticulturalist caste belonging to the OBC category which was key to BJP's political ascendancy in the crucial state in the 1990s. Selecting an OBC worker, who has been with the RSS, may also help the party dodge the difficult choice of having to choose between Brahmins and Thakurs, the two dominant upper castes which broke for the party massively in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls and have often been at odds in UP politics.

In picking Maurya, BJP also seems to have reckoned that his being a Kushwaha, a caste not known for militancy which observers usually associate with dominant backwards like Yadavs, may not grate the sensitivities of upper castes and even the party's new focus, Dalits. His membership of RSS, of course, is another advantage.


The appointment of Yeddyurappa completes the rehabilitation of the former CM, who was a big factor in the party's success in installing the first saffron government in south India, but whose position diminished because of corruption cases and manoeuvers of factional rivals. Yeddyurappa, who left the party to float his own outfit, came back to the fold before the LS elections, helping Narendra Modi win a majority of seats in the Congress-ruled state.

Although he felt more comfortable under the Modi-Shah regime, relief from court in corruption cases appears to have helped with his return to pre-eminence in the state BJP. Importantly, his return coincides with indications of growing disappointment with Congress. The party will expect "Yeddy" to deliver support from fellow Lingayats, the single largest caste which accounts for 17% of the population.


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