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Uttar Pradesh, where assembly elections are due in about seven months’ time, featured prominently in the Modi 2

Uttar Pradesh, where assembly elections are due in about seven months’ time, featured prominently in the Modi 2.0 government’s first reshuffle as seven faces from the state got a look-in, a combination of caste, education and political experience. All of them are ministers of state.

Along with nine existing ministers from Uttar Pradesh in the Modi government, after the surprise exclusion of Union labour minister Santosh Gangwar, the state now has 16 ministers in the Union council of ministers. Gangwar is an eight-term MP from Bareilly.

“What’s heartening to see is that most of the new ministers are well-read and have been associated with some social causes,” said Manuka Khanna, head of the political science department of Lucknow University.

Apna Dal (Sonelal) leader Anupriya Patel, 40, who prior to joining politics was a teacher with an MBA background, is the only woman among the seven new faces from U.P., the youngest of them all. She is the only non-BJP face too from the state. An ally of the BJP since 2014 Lok Sabha polls, Anupriya represents the Kurmi community and is a second-term MP from Mirzapur, a constituency that is adjacent to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Varanasi Lok Sabha seat.

Union home minister Amit Shah had met Anupriya Patel prior to the reshuffle.

“BJP has been working hard to develop its own grown Kurmi leadership but Anupriya’s recall in the Modi ministry is proof that the effort hasn’t matured as yet,” a BJP leader said.

Among the new ministers from UP, while Anupriya Patel, Pankaj Chaudhary and B L Verma are from the Other Backward Classes, three others — Kaushal Kishore, Bhanu Pratap Singh Verma and S P Singh Baghel — are from the Scheduled Castes category. Ajay Kumar Taini is the lone Brahmin from the state among the new inductees.

Rajya Sabha MP BL Verma, 59, a postgraduate and former chief of the party’s Braj region in western Uttar Pradesh. Verma belongs to the Lodh community and is considered to be a protégé of former U.P. chief minister Kalyan Singh.

Ajay Kumar Taini, 61 is a second-term MP from Lakhimpur Kheri in the Terai region of Uttar Pradesh, is a science graduate with a degree in law.

SP Singh Baghel, an MP from Agra, who was a former personal security officer (PSO) of Samajwadi Party patron Mulayam Singh Yadav who later made him an MP too, has been with the Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) before switching over to the BJP.

“A PhD in military science, Baghel, 61, who has been associated with several social causes like checking child marriages and saying no to dowry, hails from Auraiya and has considerable experience as a fifth-term MP,” a BJP leader explained.

Pankaj Chaudhary, 56, a graduate, is a sixth-term MP from Maharajganj and has been the face of the BJP in the district. He has served as the deputy mayor of Gorakhpur.

“The belt he represents is associated with chief minister Yogi Adityanath. It’s generally understood that since BJP central leadership is backing Yogiji ahead of 2022 UP polls, the chief minister surely was consulted on the choice of the candidate from the region,” a BJP leader said.

Kaushal Kishore, 61, the BJP’s second term Lok Sabha MP from Mohanlalganj (reserved) seat, was also inducted in the Modi government.

A science graduate, he has taken up a campaign to make youths give up liquor after he lost his son to liver cirrhosis. Kishore, who belongs to the Pasi community, was described by a BJP leader as an extremely handy “all-rounder.”

“He has a connect with his community, takes up social causes, is well read and has been rallying the youths with his no-to-liquor message,” a BJP leader said.

As the then Uttar Pradesh BJP in-charge, Union home minister Amit Shah had dined at his residence in the run up to 2014 Lok Sabha polls to symbolically indicate party’s outreach to the Scheduled Castes in the state. “In 2014 LS polls if you recall, this outreach saw BSP not getting a single seat in UP,” the BJP leader said.

Bhanu Pratap Singh Verma, 63, a fifth-term MP from Jalaun, is a postgraduate with a degree in law. He represents the Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh.

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