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As Suspense Looms Over Role of PM’s Trusted Aide in UP, Move May Prompt Reshaping Priorities for State

File photo: Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Home Minister Amit Shah

File photo: Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Home Minister Amit Shah

The entry of PM Modi’s close associate, former bureaucrat AK Sharma, in the politics of Uttar Pradesh is being seen as a significant step that will have the potential of strong messaging in the run-up to the assembly elections early next year.

In the era of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister Amit Shah, not much of the inside news and gossip flows out of the Bharatiya Janata Party. The reason being the new style of functioning where information within the organisation is shared on a need-to-know basis. So while journalists covering the party remain clueless, a majority of BJP leaders are equally in the dark about decisions taken at the top. Gossips and possibilities are seldom discussed inside party circles. But now, in poll-bound Uttar Pradesh, a fresh move, having a clear impression of Modi-Shah strategy, has shattered this silence.

The entry of PM Modi’s close associate, former bureaucrat AK Sharma, in the politics of Uttar Pradesh is being seen as a significant move that will have the potential of strong messaging in the run-up to the assembly elections early next year. A move that might be aimed at improving governance under the Yogi Adityananth-led BJP government.

The moment since Sharma left the power corridors of Delhi, post swift acceptance of his VRS and subsequent membership of the BJP in Lucknow, political circles both within the party and outside have been left with questions about the intent behind the move. Though there is still no official confirmation about his larger future role in BJP’s politics, he has made a start with his name finding a place in the first list of party candidates for the legislative council polls, declared on Friday.

SHARMA’S FUTURE ROLE—THE BUZZ SO FAR

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On the day of Makar Sankranti, January 14, the BJP’s state office in Lucknow was abuzz with excitement since morning. Phone calls reached journalists; they were requested to come and cover a “big and important” joining. A few hours later at 12 noon, it was AK Sharma, bureaucrat turned politician, who appeared before the media, declaring his entry in the BJP. He was accompanied by party state president Swatantra Dev Singh and deputy chief minister Dinesh Sharma.

In his brief comment to the media, Sharma said, “It is only in the BJP and under the leadership of PM Modi that a humble person with no political background like me can be chosen for a political role. I will try to discharge the responsibilities given with full dedication.” No mention of any other leader was a point that didn’t go unnoticed.

A bhumihar by caste and native of Mau district of eastern Uttar Pradesh, Sharma has entered politics at a time when the BJP is hoping for a landslide in the soon-to-be-held elections for 12 seats of the state’s legislative council. Now, as his entry in the upper house is almost certain, Modi-Shah’s trusted aide for nearly two decades is expected to be around in UP's politics for a while. So, if insiders are to be believed, entry in the council will just be the beginning.

The question therefore is, what is the big “next” for Sharma? What it can be and how politically significant it will be. The inner BJP politics is ripe with possibilities. Almost every leader from party organization to those in government feel, the man is all set to be the part of the Yogi cabinet. In what capacity? That remains a million-dollar question.

SPECULATION IN THE AIR

With no one other than the Prime Minister and the chief minister in the know of things to come, political circles and the government is astir with speculation of several possibilities. These range from Sharma being brought in as a deputy CM to the department of home being put under him.

The chief minister himself has chosen not to respond to such wild conjecture. In a dinner meeting with journalists on Friday night when confronted with the question over Sharma’s possible role, CM Adityanath was not very clear in his reply. He said, “UP will benefit from Mr Sharma’s experience." He was, however, noncommittal when asked if Sharma would be inducted into the cabinet and made a deputy chief minister.

DOES BRAND YOGI GET IMPACTED?

Whatever may be the yet-to-be-disclosed position for Sharma in the state cabinet, a key question is does his induction mean less of a free hand for the chief minister in the state, which also has the Prime Minister’s constituency? Can it anyway suggest that the PM, with his clear agenda of good governance, wants some radical changes or may be add-ons in the functioning of the state government?

If that is the case, Yogi detractors both in the party and outside will have reasons to be elated and target the chief minister. If a key portfolio either from the kitty presently held by Yogi himself or from any of the other ministers is assigned to Sharma, it will clearly be seen as the sole decision of the Prime Minister and not that of the CM. Depending upon what responsibility Sharma gets, perceptions about “Brand Yogi” will be further redefined.

BJP’s state vice president and MLC Vijay Bahadur Pathak said, “The Prime Minister has always appealed to qualified people from different walks of life to come in public life. Mr Sharma’s choice is yet another proof of his political vision and farsightedness. Sharma with his vast bureaucratic experience, will clearly help in furthering the goal of sushasan in the state”

But with just a year left for the assembly polls, Sharma’s entry in UP politics and his almost certain elevation in the state cabinet, has proved beyond doubt that the business of governance in the state is directly under the PM’s watch and he intends to put the house in order before the elections .

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