Yogi Adityanath was sworn in as chief minister (CM) of Uttar Pradesh (UP) on Friday, 25 March, for his second tenure at the helm in Lucknow. His jumbo ministry includes two deputy CMs, 16 Cabinet ministers, 14 Ministers of State (MoS) with independent charge, and 20 MoS.
But in his second innings, Adityanath has ousted 22 ministers from his last tenure when he had 45 ministers in his ministry.
In Yogi Cabinet 2.0, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has focused on the inclusion of fresh faces wherein Brahmins and Dalits have been given weightage. Let’s try to understand the social engineering of Yogi Cabinet 2.0 and the message the BJP intends to convey.
Effort To Shatter the Image of the 'Thakur Party'
During Yogi Adityanath's first tenure, the Uttar Pradesh BJP was tagged as 'Thakur Party,' as the opposition blamed him for siding with the Thakurs. After the encounter of gangster Vikas Dubey and the arrest of Khushi Dubey in the aftermath of the Bikaru incident, both Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) accused Yogi of being anti-Brahmin.
There were efforts during the election to cash in on this sentiment, but the BJP leadership succeeded to salvage the situation. It was pertinent to break the anti-Brahmin image of the Yogi government and the constitution of the Cabinet hints at that effort clearly.
Eight Brahmins, namely Brijesh Pathak, Jitin Prasad, Yogendra Upadhayay, Dayashankar Mishra ‘Dayalu,’ Pratibha Shukla, Rajni Tiwari, Satish Sharma, and Bhumihar Brahmin Arvind Kumar Sharma have been included in the ministry of Yogi 2.0. While six ministers namely Jaiveer Singh, JPS Rathore, Dayashankar Singh, Dinesh Pratap Singh, Mayankeshwar Sharan Singh, and Brijesh Singh are from the Thakur community.
Earlier, the SP had also faced brandishing of being a 'Party of the Yadavs,' which had resulted in electoral setbacks for Akhilesh Yadav. In 2017, a big chunk of Other Backward Class (OBC) voters shifted base to the BJP, resulting in a thumping win for the BJP. Akhilesh Yadav tried to break the mould of the 'Yadav Party' in this election as he gave lesser tickets to the Yadav candidates as compared to in the past.
BJP Aiming To Fill Vacuum in Dalit Leadership
The seeming disinterest of Mayawati in the Assembly election in UP in 2022 has created a vacuum of Dalit leadership in the state. The vote share of the BSP in 2022 has come down to 12 percent from 19 percent in 2017.
According to the Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS), 22 percent of the core Jatav voters of the BSP supported the BJP and its allies, while the SP got 9 percent of the votes. This was the staunch support base of Mayawati which has now shifted largely to the BJP.
Now the BJP has reciprocated by giving weightage to Dalit voters by giving equal weight to the community vis-à-vis Brahmins, in the ministry.
Eight ministers from the Dalit community have been given berths in the new Yogi Government. Former Governor Baby Rani Maurya is now a Cabinet minister, while other Dalit ministers include Gulab Devi, Aseem Arun, Dinesh Khatik, Jaswant Saini, Ramkesh Nishad, Anup Pradhan, and Vijay Laxmi Gautam. The lone tribal minister in the Yogi government is Sanjay Gond.
The constitution of the ministry clearly hints at the social engineering of the BJP ahead of the 2024 general elections. Earlier, the BSP led by Mayawati had tried to unite Brahmin and other castes along with Dalits and had electoral success, but the BJP is doing the same work with much more finesse.
Focus on Western UP
The political pundits had predicted a setback for the BJP in western UP ahead of the Assembly elections as the influential Jat community was supposedly angry with the BJP. But the BJP captured 40 seats in western UP, and the damage to it has been limited. But the narrative of Jats being angry with the BJP has not died down. Thus, efforts have been made to establish the party on a strong footing again through handing out ministerial berths in view of the challenges in the 2024 general elections.
Sixteen ministers in Yogi 2.0 come from Western UP. The representatives from Meerut, Saharanpur, Agra, Muzaffarnagar, Baghpat, Rampur, and Ghaziabad have got the pie while those from Shamli, Bijnor, and Bulandshahr were largely ignored.
Baby Rani Maurya, MLA from Agra Rural, has been given a cabinet berth while the MLCs Bhupendra Singh and Thakur Dharampal Singh have also been included. The other ministers from western UP include Baldev Singh Aulakh, Dinesh Khatik, Chaudhary KP Malik, Somendra Tomar Gurjar, Thakur Kunwar Brijesh Singh, and MLCs namely Jaswant Saini, and Gulab Devi.
Balancing Act of Delhi
Ahead of the UP Assembly elections, rumours were rife that all was not well in the BJP camp and the central leadership of the party was not getting along with Yogi smoothly. Ex-IAS AK Sharma – considered close to PM Narendra Modi – was at the centre of the rumors. Thus, a balancing of power has been intended through the Yogi Cabinet 2.0.
“Four names in Yogi Cabinet 2.0 are not considered close to him and two of them, namely Keshav Prasad Maurya and Brijesh Pathak, have been made deputy CMs. Arvind Sharma and Baby Rani Maurya have also got the Cabinet berth. The Chief Secretary Durga Shankar Mishra has also got an extension, which hints that leadership in Delhi wants to keep the strings of the government in their own hands,” Utkarsh Sinha, a senior journalist, said.
Fresh Faces and Inclusion of Professionals
Many fresh faces and professionals have been included in Yogi 2.0. Adityanath has chosen to show doors to 22 of his ministers from the last term. The new faces in the ministry include Aseem Arun, AK Sharma, Sarita Bhadauria, Ashish Patel, and Vijay Laxmi Gautam.
Aseem Arun is a former IPS officer while AK Sharma is a retired IAS. The other professionals in the Yogi 2.0 include Jitin Prasad – an MBA, Ajeet Pal – an Engineer, Brijesh Pathak – a lawyer, and Daya Shankar Singh – an academician.
There was a time when the BJP was called a party of Thakurs, Brahmins, and Vaishyas but that image is now fading. The BJP this time has got widespread support from non-Yadav OBCs and non Jatav Dalits. Though Akhilesh Yadav has also improved his vote share to 34 percent, the BJP could be termed as the overall gainer in terms of vote share.
Thus, the BJP has employed tools of social engineering to appease not only the Thakur, Brahmin, and Vaishya communities but also the Jatav base of Mayawati and Yadav support base of Akhilesh Yadav.
(Translated from Quint Hindi by Arvind Singh.)
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