BJP has a Brahmin-OBC dilemma in Uttar Pradesh
The BJP is caught in the Brahmin-OBC dilemma in Uttar Pradesh, where the party’s mammoth Lok Sabha win in 2014 has been punctuated by defeats in local body elections and bypolls. Kalyan Singh, the OBC leader who took the party to power in UP during the Ram Mandir days, is pressing on Amit Shah to let him take the lead again. The BJP too is eager to induct the 84-year-old, currently Rajasthan Governor, as the party’s newly appointed state president Keshav Prasad Maurya is not a heavyweight OBC face. The BJP cannot take chances with the OBCs, who helped it come to power by breaking away from the Congress’ social alliance of Dalits, Brahmins and Muslims in the post Mandal Commission era. But endorsing Singh will alienate the Brahmins, another core support base of the party. The BJP is unable to decide whether they should project a Thakur as a Chief Minister face to woo the upper castes or focus on the OBCs to counter the Samajwadi Party.
BJP meet to discuss UP CM face
The choice of BJP’s CM candidate in UP is likely to come up for discussion in the party’s national executive meet on 12 June in Allahabad. Apparently, the names of Varun Gandhi, Rajnath Singh and Smriti Irani are doing the rounds. Varun has the blessings of Amit Shah and is expected to be a major draw for the youth. Veterans are, however, supporting Rajnath, a former UP CM who can bring in the upper caste vote. But Narendra Modi is not willing to part with his Home Minister despite the RSS rooting for him. Smriti Irani, on the other hand, is not endorsed by the RSS. Although BJP promised her the CM’s berth under the condition that she should defeat Rahul Gandhi in Amethi elections, she was actually ignored in last year’s Assembly polls in Delhi. She is also not a good fit in the state’s caste arithmetic. Add to that, a bevy of BJP leaders are against her.
Cabinet reshuffle will happen soon
A Cabinet reshuffle is finally on the cards. According to sources in the BJP, many powerful ministers will either be dropped or moved to a different ministry. In pursuance of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s policy to relieve Cabinet ministers who have reached the age of 75, Kalraj Mishra and Najma Heptulla will be dropped. Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, Heptulla’s deputy, may get her post, while Radhamohan Singh from Bihar may be asked to exit as Modi wants to bring in people from poll-bound UP. Manohar Parrikar and Nitin Gadkari will continue in their respective portfolios.
Prez names being discussed
Names are already being discussed for next year’s presidential election. A section in the BJP is in support of a second term for incumbent Pranab Mukherjee. They argue Mukherjee being a Brahmin and a “right wing” within the Congress, will not be a misfit for the BJP. Others, however, refute this, citing Mukherjee’s recent pro-Congress statements and dubbing his pro-BJP stance in Uttarakhand as an eyewash. Najma Heptulla, granddaughter of the patriotic Maulana Azad, is also on the list of probables, as the RSS and BJP hope that a Muslim President will give them a facelift in the Middle East. For the same reason, Vice President Hamid Ansari, a diplomat with good relations with countries abroad, is also being considered. However, some others in the party want a Brahmin, upper caste or a Dalit President. The names being discussed are of Kesari Nath Tripathi, Murli Manohar Joshi, Lal Krishna Advani, Kalyan Singh and Sharad Pawar. While Tripathi and former RSS cadre Joshi are Brahmins, Sharad Pawar is a Maratha leader whose good terms with all other parties will help him emerge as a consensus candidate.