New Delhi: Keshav Prasad Maurya, who was sworn in as one of the two deputy chief ministers of Uttar Pradesh on Sunday, has a lot in common with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Both belong to the Other Backward Classes (OBCs); like Modi, Maurya also worked at a tea stall in his childhood and both are closely linked with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
By virtue of being popular among the OBCs, Maurya was picked by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) to mobilize the OBC and Most Backward Class (MBC) communities for the 2017 Uttar Pradesh assembly elections.
Projected as the OBC face of the party—Maurya belongs to the Kushwaha community—he was appointed as the party state president in April 2016 to increase the outreach of the party.
The elevation of Maurya, a first-time Lok Sabha member of Parliament from Phulpur, Allahabad, to head the party in Uttar Pradesh worked in the BJP’s favour. While the Samajwadi Party (SP) and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP)—the BJP’s main challengers—enjoy the loyal support of Yadav OBCs, Muslims and Dalits, Maurya consolidated support among the non-Yadav OBCs and non-Jatav Dalits, both of whom drifted towards the BJP in the 2014 Lok Sabha election.
The party fielded 148 OBC candidates in the recent assembly election, the highest ever in UP, to further consolidate this vote bank.
Maurya also paved the way for the entry of BSP’s most popular OBC face—Swami Prasad Maurya—into the party. Former national general secretary and leader of opposition in the state assembly, Swamy Prasad Maurya joined the BJP in August 2016.
Riding on Modi’s popularity and his “development for all” narrative, Maurya’s caste arithmetic and the consolidation of the upper-caste vote helped the BJP create history by winning 312 of the 403 assembly seats in Uttar Pradesh.
While the BJP came back to power in the state after 15 years, Maurya was rewarded for his efforts when he was made the deputy chief minister along with Dinesh Sharma on Saturday.
BJP leaders say that Maurya’s appointment is well deserved given his long association with the party and his significant contribution in the BJP win.
“Keshav Prasad Maurya has been associated with the BJP for long. He played an active role in ensuring that BJP’s caste arithmetic results in the party’s victory in the election. The BJP leadership wanted to promote an OBC leader and Maurya is the right choice. He had to be rewarded for his hard work and role in expanding BJP’s outreach in Uttar Pradesh,” said a senior BJP leader from Lucknow.
Born in 1969 in Sirathu in Kaushambi, Maurya graduated from the Hindi Sahitya Sammelan, Allahabad and later went on to win the assembly election from Sirathu in 2012 after losing two consecutive elections in 2002 and 2007. Before being elected to the state assembly, Maurya was the BJP’s regional president of the Varanasi region, which also happens to be the parliamentary constituency of the prime minister, and also held positions of the regional coordinator of the backward class cell and regional president of BJP’s Kisan Morcha in the same region.
He was also associated with the Vishwa Hindu Parishad.
Analysts say that the choice of the chief minister and the two deputy chief ministers reflects a continuation of the caste calculations that helped the BJP form a majority government in the state.
“Upper castes and non-Yadav OBCs, along with a section of non-Jatav Dalits, voted BJP to power in the election. The party wants to take this vote together, thus it chose Yogi Adityanath (a Rajput), Keshav Maurya (an OBC) and Dinesh Sharma (a Brahmin) to become the CM and deputy CMs respectively. The party didn’t field any Muslim candidates indicating that BJP is eying caste and religion-based consolidation to repeat its 2017 victory in the 2019 Lok Sabha election as well,” said Ramesh Dixit, a Lucknow-based political analyst.