‘Pradhan’s appointment was done after taking CM Adityanath into confidence’.

 

New Delhi: Union minister Dharmendra Pradhan’s appointment as the election in-charge of Uttar Pradesh has confirmed the much talked about topic within the party circles that he will be among the top few leaders who will be steering the BJP in the coming years.

According to party sources, Pradhan’s appointment was done by the BJP leadership after taking Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath into confidence. This, sources said, is an indication of the trust enjoyed by Pradhan by the present leadership, especially Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president Jagat Prakash Nadda, and the future leadership that will have Adityanath in a prominent role.

During the July cabinet reshuffle, when the 52-year-old Pradhan was moved from the high profile Petroleum and Natural Gas ministry and given the charge of Education and Skill Development and Entrepreneurship, it was described by many political observers, including a few party leaders, as a “clipping of wings” of Pradhan.

Due to his past organizational experience and the role that he has played in the government for the past seven years, Pradhan, sources said, will easily be able to organize resources for the party in the vast state where it will be up against the triple threat of Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and the Congress.

“His appointment has more to do with his ability to get things done rather than his caste identity as is being widely suggested. (He belongs to Chasa, Khandayat OBC). Apart from the fact that he knows whom to tap when the need arises, he is affable and mixes around with people and the media and hence is a resourceful man to have around,” a senior Rajya Sabha member told The Sunday Guardian.

The Chasa, Khandayat class, traditionally used to do farming and was also considered a martial community. Pradhan had cut his teeth under the tutelage of his father Debendra Pradhan, a former Union minister under the Vajpayee cabinet, who also served as the state president of the BJPs in the 1990s and was known for his honesty and simplicity, recalled a journalist who was posted in Bhubaneswar when Debendra Pradhan was the state chief and Dharmendra Pradhan was a college student.

UP has almost 43% OBC population and Pradhan’s caste identity will come in handy to reach out to members and voters of this chunk of population. He will be assisted by seven co-incharges—Arjun Thakur, a Thakur leader; Arjun Ram Meghwal, a Dalit, Annpura Devi, a Yadav OBC; Shobha Karandlaje, a Vokalliga forward caste; Captain Abhimanyu, a Jat; Vivek Thakur, a Bhumihar and Saroj Pandey, a Brahmin. Apart from these seven co-incharges, the party has also appointed six zonal organizations in-charge.

If the BJP is unable to regain power in UP in the February 2022 state polls, it will mobilize the Opposition parties and further damage the party’s “undefeatable image” which has taken a massive dent after the recent loss in the West Bengal polls. “The result of the UP elections should be seen through two different perspectives—if the BJP comes back, then Adityanath will look to launch himself prominently in national politics. Secondly, a repeat of the 2017 polls will give a much-needed boost to the party cadre that is right now still to recover from the loss in West Bengal and help the party immensely in the 2024 polls. It will strengthen the perception that BJP is still what it was in 2014 and 2019. However, a loss in UP will hurt the party and its multiple leaders at different levels. A win or loss would increase or decrease the stature of Pradhan significantly. A loss in UP would give the much-needed opportunity for his detractors in the party to reduce his political clout,” a national functionary told The Sunday Guardian.

In 2013, then BJP president Rajnath Singh had appointed Amit Shah as the party’s election in-charge in Uttar Pradesh where the BJP won 71 out of the 80 seats. This opportunity, which was utilized to the maximum by Shah, catapulted him to national politics, something that Pradhan will be looking to emulate. In the recently held West Bengal elections, Pradhan was the election in-charge of Nandigram seat, where the party’s candidate Suvendu Adhikari defeated the sitting Chief Minister and TMC president, Mamata Banerjee.

Party national secretary, Arvind Menon, who played a key role in West Bengal as con-incharge of the state, has been made the in-charge of Gorakhpur that falls in the Purvanchal region and is the home town of Adityanath.

“He is the only one (who was active in West Bengal) who has been given a prominent role in UP and that too of the CM’s own region. This shows that the party leadership recognizes the ability of Menon in winning elections,” the Rajya Sabha MP said.