PM's close aide AK Sharma appointed UP BJP Vice President
AK Sharma, a former bureaucrat who is known to be a part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's inner circle, has been appointed the Vice President of the BJP's Uttar Pradesh unit. The appointment is significant as the BJP mulls over its strategy ahead of the UP Assembly elections, due early next year. Sharma thanked the party leadership in a tweet this evening.
Sharma - a former Gujarat-cadre IAS officer - had joined the BJP this January, just days after he took voluntary retirement from the government service. He then went on to become a Member of the Legislative Council (MLC) in UP. He had also earlier worked in the Gujarat CM's Office when Modi held that post. Sharma is from the eastern UP district of Mau.
Today's appointment brings a full stop to speculation that Sharma would be given a role in the UP Cabinet. He was earlier this year sent to PM Modi's Lok Sabha constituency, Varanasi, to oversee the handling of COVID-19 there. For weeks now, there have been talks about a possible reshuffle or expansion of the UP Cabinet, however, the BJP has ruled out any changes.
There was also speculation that UP CM Yogi Adityanath or his deputies might be replaced after their government faced flak for its handling of the COVID-19 surge this year. However, the BJP said that would not happen. The BJP would fight the next UP elections under the leadership of Adityanath as CM and party state president Swatantra Dev Singh, sources have confirmed to NDTV.
Earlier this month, top BJP leaders BL Santhosh and Radha Mohan Singh were sent to UP to hold a series of meetings as part of a "feedback exercise." They met with the CM, Ministers, MLAs, and party leaders. Days later, Adityanath also made a visit to Delhi, holding separate meetings with Prime Minister Modi, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, and BJP chief JP Nadda.
Both Santhosh and Singh are expected to visit UP again next week. The leaders will go to state capital Lucknow on Monday for a three-day visit and convene meetings on issues concerning governance and organizational matters, NDTV reported citing sources.
The Adityanath-led state government received widespread criticism from sections of the public and the Opposition parties for its handling of the COVID-19 second wave in the state. Shocking images of bodies floating in the Ganges in UP generated headlines and contributed to the flak. In fact, MLAs and MPs from within the BJP had also slammed the UP government over the COVID-19 situation there.
UP is set to go to polls early next year to choose representatives of 403 Assembly seats. This year's panchayat elections in UP have added to the BJP leadership's worries - the party suffered losses even in its strongholds in the local polls. Polls in UP - India's most populous state - are considered an indicator of the public mood for the general elections.