PM’s aide made UP BJP Vice President, after buzz over role as minister

Lucknow: Former bureaucrat AK Sharma, known to be among Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s close aides, has been made the BJP’s vice president in Uttar Pradesh, where assembly elections will be held next year.

For weeks, there had been speculation that Sharma, a member of the legislative council in Uttar Pradesh and a former Indian Administrative Service officer, would be made a minister in UP. He was sent to PM Modi’s Lok Sabha constituency Varanasi earlier this year to oversee the fight against COVID-19.

Sharma’s hometown is the eastern UP district of Mau.

“Many thanks to the national and state leadership of the party for making Uttar Pradesh BJP state vice-president. I will continue to serve the society, the state and the country with the help of my friends under the guidance of seniors,” Sharma tweeted, tagging the BJP’s official handles, PM Modi, UP BJP chief Swatantra Dev Singh and party’s national chief JP Nadda.

Talk of Sharma’s possible elevation to ministership in UP started last month after speculation that Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath may be in trouble with the BJP leadership in Delhi over his government’s handling of the pandemic. The BJP has ruled out any change in UP’s leadership.

The BJP will contest the Uttar Pradesh election under the leadership of Yogi Adityanath as Chief Minister and Swatantra Dev Singh as state president, sources said earlier this month, rubbishing talk fuelled by a two-day review meeting in early June by national BJP leaders in UP’s capital Lucknow.

BJP leaders BL Santosh and Radha Mohan Singh were sent to UP on the recommendation of the BJP’s ideological mentor Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) earlier this month to hold an “extensive feedback exercise”. The team met with the Chief Minister, senior party leaders, ministers and MLAs and took the feedback to the central leadership.

Earlier today, sources said both leaders will be going to UP once again. The central leaders will be in Lucknow on Monday for a three-day visit and will hold meetings on issues of governance and organisational matters.

A decision has reportedly been taken against a reshuffle of Yogi Adityanath’s cabinet, sources said. They said the BJP leadership has recommended the appointment of a Dalit MP from UP as a minister in PM Modi’s cabinet expansion at the centre, and an important responsibility may be given to a Jat leader in UP.

On June 11, the UP Chief Minister made a much publicised visit to Delhi and met with PM Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP chief JP Nadda in a span of 24 hours.

The flurry of meetings in Lucknow and in Delhi happened after the BJP’s ideological mentor Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh 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.

The UP government’s handling of COVID-19 pandemic 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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