LUCKNOW: Believed to be a trusted lieutenant of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, AK Sharma, the Gujarat cadre former IAS officer of 1988 batch, joined the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Lucknow on Thursday. He was inducted into the party by UP BJP chief Swatantra Dev Singh in the presence of Deputy CMs Keshav Prasad Maurya and Dr Dinesh Shrma along with other senior office-bearers of the party.
While Sharma is tipped to be a BJP candidate in the upcoming council elections scheduled for January 28, the political corridors are abuzz with speculations of he (Sharma) taking up a crucial role in the state with UP Assembly elections just a year away.
Speaking to reporters after the induction, Sharma said that he was happy to join the party and would be happy to work for the welfare of the people. UP BJP chief expressed confidence that the BJP would benefit from Sharma's administrative experience gained while working with the PM closely -- especially the six years which he spent in the Prime Minister's Office (PMO).
A Bhumihar by caste, Sharma is a postgraduate in political science from Allahabad University and hails from Kajha Khurd village in Muhammadabad Gohna tehsil in Mau district in eastern UP. He joined Modi as the secretary in October 2001 when the former took over as the Gujarat CM. He continued to work with him in the PMO from 2014 onward as well and took over as the MSME secretary in April 2020.
While top leadership of the state BJP seemed to be tight-lipped over the possible role Sharma would be playing in UP, those who have followed his stint as a bureaucrat as Modi's lieutenant believe that he would not come to UP just for becoming an MLC. While the BJP’s state unit is keeping a guarded silence over the role of Sharma, those privy to the developments, said, he may be entrusted with the deputy chief ministership in the Yogi Adityanath cabinet.
However, in such a situation, the sword of suspense would hang existing deputy CMs – Keshav Maurya and Dinesh Sharma – and the responsibility they would be entrusted with in future. “Obviously, the party leadership must be having a bigger plan behind sending Sharma to UP Council,” said a senior BJP functionary seeking anonymity.
Nominations for the Parishad polls are being filed till January 18 and BJP is sure to win 10 out of 12 seats falling vacant. The party is likely to announce the list of its candidates in a day or two. The political experts feel that if Sharma gets a key role in the government, he would be the second most trusted person of the PM in Lucknow after Governor Anandiben Patel.
A low-profile officer, Sharma is known for delivering time-bound results. He earned Modi's trust as the secretary in his CMO and by successfully handing Vibrant Gujarat campaign to get investment to the state. Before taking voluntary retirement, he was handling affairs in MSME (micro small and medium enterprises), a crucial department that was working on PM Modi’s plan for revival of the economy post-Covid lockdown.
While there are precedence of top bureaucrats joining the government at the Centre, like foreign minister S Jaishankar and civil aviation and urban development minister Hardip Puri, it's a rare instance of an officer of Sharma's stature being elevated in the state unit of the BJP. It seems that the reshuffle of Yogi cabinet is close on the cards .