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Ahead of UP polls, PM Modi’s aide to get big role amid dissent in BJP

By Priyanka Verma 
Updated Date

New Delhi: The BJP has ruled out any change in leadership in Uttar Pradesh and has trashed speculation that Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath may be in trouble over his government’s Covid handling, but the cabinet may soon see changes less than a year to the UP polls. Former bureaucrat AK Sharma, known to be among Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s close aides, may be given an important role in the UP government, BJP sources say.

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The BJP will contest the Uttar Pradesh election under the leadership of Yogi Adityanath as Chief Minister and Swatantra Dev Singh as state president, the sources asserted, rubbishing talk fueled by a two-day review meeting this week by national BJP leaders in UP capital Lucknow.

Despite the buzz, there was never a real possibility that Yogi Adityanath – the BJP’s star campaigner and one of its top leadership faces – would be replaced. But a cabinet expansion is likely this month and new ministers will be picked with caste and regional equations in mind, sources say.

The decision was taken after the review by senior BJP leaders BL Santosh and Radha Mohan Singh, which is described as an “extensive feedback exercise” by party leaders. The team met with the Chief Minister, senior party leaders, ministers and MLAs and took the feedback to the central leadership.

They were despatched to the state on the recommendation of the BJP’s ideological mentor Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), which has reportedly flagged concerns internally about the criticism and attacks heaped on the UP government ahead of polls that will also have a bearing on the 2024 national election.

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RSS General Secretary Dattatreya Hosbole had also taken inputs from various BJP and RSS leaders during his trip to Lucknow weeks ago.

Sources said among the suggestions that have come up in these interactions is regular meetings for better coordination between the government and the party.

BJP president JP Nadda is likely to visit UP next month to oversee efforts to repair the party’s structure and functioning.

On record, BJP leaders maintain that the Yogi Adityanath government has done well in controlling the second surge of Covid.

“In five weeks, @myogiadityanath’s Uttar Pradesh reduced the new daily case count by 93%… Remember it’s a state with 20+ Cr population. When municipality CMs could not manage a city of 1.5Cr population, Yogiji managed quite effectively,” BL Santosh tweeted after his return to Delhi.

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The UP government’s handling of infections was slammed on social media, especially when images of bodies floating in the Ganga river or buried in shallow graves beside it generated headlines in India and abroad. There were reports of the party’s MLAs and MPs going public with their complaints against their own government.

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