NEW DELHI/LUCKNOW : Electoral imperatives as well as the BJP’s desire to shed its image as a primarily upper-caste party appeared to weigh heavy in Wednesday’s Cabinet reshuffle as Prime Minister Narendra Modi inducted several faces belonging to the Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribe and OBC communities.
Given that non-Yadav OBC and non-Jatav Scheduled Castes had played a significant role in the BJP winning 312 of Uttar Pradesh’s 403 Assembly seats in 2017, Wednesday’s Cabinet expansion kept in mind the caste arithmetic of the state.
The state also bagged the maximum number of berths with seven of its MPs taking the oath. Of them, six are either from OBCs or Scheduled Caste. Pankaj Chaudhary and Anupriya Patel belong to the Kurmi community, categorised as OBCs. B L Verma is a Lodh-Rajput, also an OBC. Kaushal Kishore, an eloquent MP considered close to Union Home Minister Amit Shah, belongs to the OBC Pasi caste.
The other two from backward communities are S P S Baghel and Bhanu Pratap Singh Verma. They belong to the SC and Kori OBC communities respectively. The only upper-caste member from UP is Ajay Kumar, a Brahmin.
Similar social engineering has been attempted in the representation from Maharashtra. Of the four new ministers from the state, only Narayan Rane, a Maratha, belongs to the upper caste. Among the other three, Bhagwat Karad is a Wanjari OBC, Kapil Patil belongs to Agri OBC community and Bharti Pawar is from a Scheduled Tribe.
From Madhya Pradesh, the party picked Virendra Kumar a seven-term parliamentarian who’s from the Khatik OBC community, which constitutes 15-16% of the state’s population. The humiliation in the West Bengal Assembly elections did not stop the party from inducting two ministers from the state, both from the backward communities. While John Barla is an ST from the tea community in north Bengal, Shantanu Thakur is a Matua, an OBC who are Hindu refugees from Bangladesh.
In Gujarat, Patidar community members Puroshottam Rupala and Mansukh Mandavia were elevated to the Cabinet rank while Mahendrabhai Munjpara and Darshana Jardosh were made ministers of state. (With Sudhir Suryawanshi and Pranab Mondal)