MIRZAPUR (Uttar Pradesh): The omission of Apna Dal (S) leader Anupriya Patel from the Union ministry has come as a disappointment for supporters, with some leaders suggesting that she declined an offer to be a minister of state.
District unit president of the Apna Dal (S) Ramakant Patel said, "We were expecting that Anupriya, who was an MoS in the previous ministry, will be elevated to cabinet position and were not aware of her omission from the list till the last minute."
"She had received a phone call and was told to prepare herself for the swearing-in ceremony. But I feel that she did not agree for a minister of state rank," a party insider said, requesting anonymity.
"In the initial rounds, there were talks about her elevation, hence she might have declined the offer," the party leader said, adding she should have been offered at least the rank of minister of state with independent charge.
When contacted, senior party leader and MLC Ashish Singh Patel said it was up to the prime minister to choose his team.
"We are with the NDA. It is the prerogative of the prime minister who will join his team," he said when asked about his party not being accommodated in the Modi 2.0 regime.
Apna Dal (S) leaders cite senior BJP leader Rajnath Singh's promise of a "better deal" for Anupriya at a public meeting here during campaigning.
They say that the results in her favour had raised her supporters' expectations.
Before her departure to Delhi, a beaming Anupriya had remarked, "My margin is better than last time."
Her residence-cum-office in Bharuhana wore a deserted look and the lone party worker present there, on condition of anonymity, said, "Party chief Ashish Patel had said that even the offer of minister of state with independent charge would be acceptable, but her absence indicates even that was not offered."
When contacted, Apna Dal (S) MLA Rahul Kol, the son of the newly elected Robertsganj MP, also said that the decision was the prime minister's prerogative.
However, the explanation was not palatable to party insiders, who pointed out that Prime Minister Narendra Modi had given a ministerial berth to the RPI (A), though the party did not have a single MP, while the AIADMK, which got one seat, and the Akali Dal, which got two, also joined the government.
Apart from the prime minister, the Purvanchal region has got only one ministerial berth, with BJP president Mahendra Nath Pandey being inducted as a Cabinet minister.
Supporters of Anupriya, who is in Delhi, feel that she might be accommodated in the government later, like the last time, when she was appointed a minister of state two years after Modi became the prime minister.
Even local BJP leaders say that the Apna Dal (S) is likely to be included in the government whenever the ministry is expanded at a later stage.
The Apna Dal (S) won two seats in Uttar Pradesh, same as last time, pushing the NDA's tally to 64 this time out of 80 Lok Sabha seats.
The NDA ally had got two seats in the alliance.
While Anupriya won from Mirzapur, Pakhauri Lal Kol won from Roberstganj.
The party, which has been with the NDA since 2014, enjoys clout among a section of the OBCs.
It is a Kurmi-based party.
The community constitutes nine per cent of the total state population and 24 per cent of the OBC population.
The alliance with Apna Dal (S), which was forged in 2014, had helped consolidate the Kurmi vote base in BJP's favour.
Its leaders project the party's victory from both the seats as its 100 per cent success rate which, they feel, should have been given due recognition.
A party leader said the expansion of the Yogi Adityanath government was on the cards and the Apna Dal (S), which has 9 MLAs and 1 MLC, might be accommodated.
At present, the lone minister of state from the party in the Adityanath ministry is Jai Kumar Singh 'Jackie'.
Party workers hope that some adjustments are likely in the UP Cabinet expansion, which might be carried out soon to fill vacancies caused by UP ministers being elected to the Lok Sabha.
There was another vacancy after SBSP leader OP Rajbhar was sacked for constantly embarrassing the BJP.
With less than three years to go for the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, political analysts point out that the BJP is keeping its OBC allies at bay in the state.
Both the Suheldev Bhartiya Samaj Party (SBSP) and the Apna Dal (S) were crucial to the BJP's stupendous success in the 2017 Assembly elections when it won 325 out of 403 seats.
In just concluded Lok Sabha polls, these two OBC-centric parties helped the BJP consolidate its hold on non-Yadav OBCs and non-Jatav Dalits and crack the caste arithmetic of the SP-BSP alliance.
For her supporters, Anupriya's absence is not only shocking but has also led to apprehensions that development work initiated by her could be scrapped.
"The projects of road, medical college, central school, etc, which were started due to her initiative can be stopped midway," social worker Kiran Jaiswal feared.
"After a long time we were hoping that things will improve but now there are doubts about the development projects," rues Lalti Vishkarma, a daily wage earner.