4 state chiefs in government, BJP looks for change

NEW DELHI: The promotion of several ground-level Bharatiya Janata Party leaders to union ministries after the Lok Sabha polls has opened up many slots in the party structure.

While there is a lot of speculation on Amit Shah’s replacement as the next BJP president, there are other vacancies as well, with four state unit chiefs becoming union ministers. Also, some ministers in the states under BJP rule as well as MLAs have become MPs.

BJP state unit presidents of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Telangana and Maharashtra are now Lok Sabha members and have also been inducted into PM Narendra Modi’s council of ministers.

Under the BJP’s ‘one person-one post’ principle, these leaders cannot simultaneously be ministers and state presidents. While the party allows MPs and MLAs to hold organisational posts — for instance, Shah was BJP chief as well as a Rajya Sabha member — it is rare to be a part of the government and also occupy a party post.

BJP’s UP chief Mahendra Nath Pandey is now the skill development minister. In the previous Modi dispensation, Pandey had to give up the post of minister of state in the human resource development ministry when he became the UP BJP chief. The party will now have to look for a replacement for him.

Sources said Manoj Sinha, who lost from Ghazipur Lok Sabha seat despite some impressive development work in his constituency, is a frontrunner for the UP BJP president’s post. Though Bhumihars, the caste Sinha belongs to, are numerically weak in UP at just 2.5%, the BJP had experimented earlier by making Surya Pratap Shahi (also a Bhumihar) the state party chief.

Rathore may be Raj BJP Chief
Sinha is close to both Shah and the Prime Minister. The fact that Sinha has not been made a union minister could be a signal that he could be given a Rajya Sabha seat later.

Bihar state unit head Nityanand Rai is now the union minister of state for home. Party sources said former agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh — a Thakur — may replace him. Rai’s predecessor Mangal Pandey is a Brahmin, and hence there is a possibility of an upper caste becoming the state unit chief. Rai belongs to the Yadav caste.

Telangana BJP president G Kishan Reddy is the other union minister of state for home. After a good performance in Telangana, where BJP won four Lok Sabha seats, Reddy will have to hand over the mantle to another leader.

Maharashtra chief Rao Saheb Danve is minister of state for consumer affairs. With assembly elections due in the state in a few months, he may be asked to continue for the time being or Shah could announce a replacement soon.

There is a buzz that former information & broadcasting minister Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore may be made the Rajasthan BJP chief. Shah wanted to appoint Gajendra Singh Shekhawat as the state chief ahead of the assembly elections late last year, but had to relent in the wake of objections from then chief minister Vasundhara Raje, who did not want another Rajput to rise within the state unit. Now that the BJP has lost the state elections, the party brass may appoint Rathore — also a Rajput — to the top post. Shekhawat is not in the race as he has been made the minister for Jal Shakti.

In UP, three ministers of the Yogi Adityanath government — Satyadev Pachauri (Govindnagar assembly seat), Rita Bahuguna Joshi (Lucknow Cantt) and SPS Baghel (Tundla-SC) — as well as Iglas MLA Rajvir Diler have become MPs. The party will need to fill these vacancies and will also have to find candidates for by-elections. Pachauri won from Kanpur, Joshi from Prayagraj, Baghel from Agra and Diler from Hathras-SC.

Meanwhile, of the three vacancies of BJP Rajya Sabha seats, external affairs minister S Jaishankar and consumer affairs minister and LJP chief Ram Vilas Paswan are set to get two.