Home / Politics / News /  Behind new faces in the reshuffled council lies an intricate poll math

In picking the new faces for the council of ministers, the Narendra Modi government has skilfully balanced caste and regional aspirations—key aspects of electoral politics—with the intent of bringing on board those who are younger, more qualified and with administrative experience.

The leitmotif of the new council, however, is the social engineering that has been attempted by giving a seat at the high table to castes considered to be at the bottom of the social and economic pyramid but that are wooed by the BJP.

There are as many as 27 other backward classes (OBC), 12 scheduled castes (SC) and eight scheduled tribes (ST) in the council of ministers, according to the data shared by the government. These include castes such as Darzi, Modh Teli, which have been represented for the first time.

This clever mosaic of castes is aimed at building the BJP’s base in not just the election-bound states such as Uttar Pradesh but also in states where the party is keen to expand its footprint, such as Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Karnataka, and in states such as Rajasthan and Maharashtra where it hopes to regain power.

The inclusions from Uttar Pradesh have hogged the headlines for the possible impact it will have on the 2022 state polls. Caste is considered a key element in determining election outcomes in the state.

Of the seven who took oath from the state, three are SCs, three OBCs and one upper caste. The composition is being perceived as an attempt to reach out to the communities, particularly the OBCs who comprise nearly 40% of the electorate and have supported the BJP but are said to be upset over a slew of issues, including the lack of job opportunities.

“The talk of sub-categorization of OBCs, for instance, has not gone down well in Uttar Pradesh, where larger groups such as Kurmis feel their share of the reservation pie will be reduced," said a senior BJP leader and a former minister on condition of anonymity.

To make up for the alienation, the BJP has included Anupriya Patel, a Kurmi leader, along with B.L. Varma from the Lodh community, and S.P. Singh Baghel, Bhanu Pratap Verma, and Kaushal Kishore who are Dalits.

From Gujarat, which also goes to polls in 2022, the party has included Darshana Jardosh and elevated Parshottam Rupala and Mansukh Mandviya as cabinet ministers.

Anurag Thakur from poll-bound Himachal Pradesh has also been elevated to the cabinet and Ajay Bhatt from Uttarakhand included in the council as minister of state. Manipur, which will also pick a new Assembly in 2022, has been represented by a first-time MP, Rajkumar Ranjan Singh.

In Jharkhand, the party has picked Annpurna Devi, a former close aide of RJD chief Lalu Prasad Yadav, to be part of the council. She is considered to have considerable clout among the Yadavs.

“The BJP has been careful in picking the caste combination that will impact not just the election-bound states of Uttar Pradesh but also the outcome in Maharashtra and Karnataka," said political commentator Abhay Deshpande.

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