Focus on Pasmanda outreach, caste balance before state polls — BJP rejigs central office bearers

New Delhi: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) rejigged its central team Saturday by appointing nine general secretaries and 13 vice-presidents. The party’s central team of office-bearers also has president J.P. Nadda, B.L. Santhosh as general secretary (organisation) and 13 secretaries.

The organisational overhaul comes ahead of assembly elections in states such as Chhattisgarh, Telangana, Rajasthan, and Madhya Pradesh. Many of the appointments are being seen as an attempt to strike a caste balance, Other Backward Class (OBC) outreach or better representation of crucial states such as Telangana and Chhattisgarh. 

The party also appointed two general secretaries (organisation) to different states — swapping Phanindra Nath and G.R. Raju who held Assam & Tripura and Haryana earlier — while a third, Vivek Dadhakar, has been given the post in Andaman & Nicobar.

Notable among the new general secretaries are Telangana unit former president Bandi Sanjay and Radha Mohan Agrawal from Uttar Pradesh, while C.T. Ravi from Karnataka and Assam MP Dilip Saikia have been dropped.

A senior party leader said to ThePrint Saturday, “Since C.T. Ravi lost the recent assembly election in his state, he is keen to fight the next year’s Lok Sabha elections. He is also one of the candidates for party presidentship in the state. Likewise, Saikia was relieved of his duty because he is an MP and needs to prepare for the coming Lok Sabha elections.”

Those removed from their vice-president’s post are Lok Sabha MPs Dilip Ghosh from West Bengal, Bharti Shiyal from Gujarat, and Radha Mohan Singh from Bihar. There is speculation that they have been dropped to let them prepare for the coming Lok Sabha elections.

Meanwhile, from Chhattisgarh, Rajya Sabha MP Saroj Pandey and former state minister Lata Usendi have been appointed vice-presidents, while former chief minister Raman Singh is already a party vice-president.

Similarly, the inclusion of former Aligarh Muslim University (AMU) vice-chancellor and a member of the legislative council (MLC) in Uttar Pradesh, Tariq Mansoor, as vice-president seems to be another overture of the BJP towards Pasmanda Muslims.

Another party leader said that being an academician, “Mansoor has a network of intellectual Muslims even as he hails from among the lowest strata of the community. So he fits the bill when the BJP is looking for support for the Uniform Civil Code and also to offset Muslim polarisation…within months of being nominated an MLC, he was elevated to the national team as a part of that strategy.”

On the list of party secretaries are Kamakhya Prasad Tasa from Assam, Congress leader A.K. Antony’s son Anil Antony from Kerala and Surendra Nagar from UP.

A third leader told ThePrint, “The party has given better representation to states that are a little more challenging, such as Telangana and Chhattisgarh. There are three vice-presidents from Chhattisgarh while Bandi from Telangana, who was recently replaced by Union minister G. Kishan Reddy as state unit chief, has been accommodated as the only general secretary from a southern state.

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OBC  outreach in Telangana 

In Telangana, the OBC vote favoured the Telangana Rashtra Samithi (now the Bharat Rashtra Samithi) in the 2018 assembly elections, election data showed. As Bandi Sanjay belongs to the OBC Munnuru Kapu caste, his induction into the central office is likely an attempt at OBC outreach as also an acknowledgement of his contribution towards building the party in the state. More so, because another prominent state leader, Eatala Rajender, was made the party’s campaign committee chairman earlier this month. 

Speaking of G. Kishan Reddy, the second party leader quoted above said, “The dominant Reddy community is only 5 percent in state, while Bandi’s OBC community is more than 57 percent. Eatala  also belongs to the backward community. So the party is appeasing all – with Reddy as state chief and Bandi a part of the central office.”

(Edited by Smriti Sinha)

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