LUCKNOW: In a significant political development just eight months before the assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh, the ruling BJP appointed its newly elected MLC and PM Narendra Modi's trusted aide AK Sharma as the new state vice president.
Ex-Gujarat cadre IAS officer-turned-BJP MLC Sharma's appointment as state party vice president on Saturday, within just five months of joining politics, not only ended long running speculation about his possible induction into the Yogi Adityanath-led state cabinet, but also carved out for him a bigger role of a political organiser in the politically crucial state, particularly in his native East UP. It also put an end for the time being to all speculation about a possible shake-up of the Yogi Adityanath cabinet in the coming days.
Sharma's appointment as state BJP vice president happened just a few hours after state party unit president Swatantra Dev Singh's meeting with party's top brass, including national president JP Nadda and general secretary (organisation) BL Santosh in Delhi.
According to informed state BJP sources, more changes in the state party organization are in the offing in the coming days, particularly after national general secretary (organisation) BL Santosh's visit to Lucknow next week.
In the run-up to the UP polls, appointments are likely to be made to vacant posts of various party cells, including the youth wing and the women wing, besides key appointments to various government commissions and corporations in the state.
Leaders from the non-Yadav OBC and most backward caste (MBC) segments, including Patel (Kurmi), Jat, Nishad and Rajbhar, are likely to get preference in these appointments/nominations to cement their ties with the saffron party, as they played a key role in its return to power in UP in 2017.
Sharma's appointment as state BJP vice president is being seen as a conscious attempt to put in place PM Modi's handpicked man for managing the affairs of the party in UP, particularly East UP, as he originally hails from Mau district in the eastern part of the state.
With Sharma belonging to the Bhumihar Brahmin upper caste, this new development is also being seen as the party's attempt to fill the void among that upper caste, after the departure of ex-Union minister Manoj Sinha as Lt Governor of Jammu and Kashmir.
The Bhumihar Brahmins are crucial in 20-25 assembly seats of East UP's Varanasi, Azamgarh, Ghazipur, Mau, Ballia, Mirzapur, Deoria and Jaunpur districts.
A Gujarat cadre IAS officer of the 1988 batch, Sharma has been close to PM Modi since the latter became the Gujarat CM in 2001. Before joining the PMO as joint secretary after Modi became the PM in 2014, Sharma had served as secretary to Modi while he was Gujarat CM.
After taking VRS from government service, Sharma was inducted into the BJP at Lucknow in January this year, followed by his election to the upper house of the state legislature thereafter.
He had reportedly played a key role in tackling the COVID-19 spread in PM Modi's parliamentary constituency Varanasi. The Varanasi model of COVID-19 management has been appreciated by the PM also on multiple occasions.
The ruling party also appointed a Brahmin leader Archana Mishra and scheduled caste leader Amit Valmiki as state unit secretary in UP on Saturday.