The appointment of new chiefs in certain states by the Bharatiya Janata Party is widely seen as a serious step towards assembly poll preparations. Turning a blind eye towards corruption charges against many of the party leaders, the BJP gave top priority to caste and Sangh affiliations while finalising new state chiefs.
The formation of Gujarat model ‘Anti-Corruption Bureau’ by Congress government in Karnataka which according to many may weaken Lokayukta, has in fact benefitted the saffron party, which unhesitatingly handed over the state president’s post to BS Yeddyurappa, the only former chief minister in the history of south Indian state to be arrested on graft charge.
The BJP high command never hesitated to make Yeddyurappa the party’s face in Karnataka, as he is not only the tallest leader of Lingayats, the most powerful community in the state, but also enjoys close relationship with RSS.
It was under his leadership that the party had won for the first time in Karnataka. He was forced to step down in the face of graft allegations, following which he floated his own outfit. It was ahead of the Lok Sabha elections that he returned to the BJP and won from the Shivamogga seat.
On the other hand a year ahead of assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, the BJP declared Keshav Prasad Maurya, a low profile OBC MP with his antecedents in the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and RSS, as the party's state chief.
It was after around six months of deliberations on the choice for the post of party president for UP, the next high-stake battle for the BJP, and considering over nearly half a dozen names that the party finally made the announcement. Party chiefs of three other states were also named. These included union minister Vijay Sampla, a Dalit leader, in Punjab, K Lakshman, a Kapu (OBC), in Telangana and former MP Tapir Gao in Arunachal Pradesh.
Caste factor and affiliations with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) seem to have been on top of BJP president Amit Shah's mind while constituting his new team of party's state chiefs. While elections are due in Karnataka in 2018, Punjab will go to polls next year along with UP. In Telangana, polls will be held in 2019.
Maurya had won by over three lakh votes from Phulpur, a constituency the BJP had never before won. He belongs to the Koeri community, which like Kushwaha belongs to the non-Yadav OBC castes that the party is targeting in the state, as takes on Mulayam Singh Yadav's SP and Mayawati's BSP.
The 47-year-old party leader has been a full-time pracharak for 14 years, a Prant Sangathan Mantri of VHP, was in the RSS Baal Swayam Sevak and participated in agitations for Ramjanmabhoomi, Gau Raksha (cow protection) and Hindu causes.
His profile on the Lok Sabha site describes his profession as "businessman" while his favourite pastime is "listening to songs of patriotism and Veer Rasa".
"He comes from a poor family. His father was a farmer and he sold tea and newspapers to pay for his studies," BJP general secretary Arun Singh said. Party sources said the fact that he was a young face acceptable to all besides his background gave him an edge over several party heavyweights, like Dinesh Sharma, Manoj Sinha, Dharampal Singh and Swatantra Dev. Also, there is speculation that if the BJP decides to project a chief ministerial candidate, the name would in all likelihood belong to the upper caste.