With the appointment of five new state unit presidents, the RSS is likely to exercise a greater influence over the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as all of them have served the RSS in the past. Another factor that has worked is caste—two of the new state chiefs are from the OBC, while one is a Dalit.
The new state presidents are Keshav Prasad Maurya (Uttar Pradesh), Union Minister and Dalit leader Vijay Sampla (Punjab), Shimoga MP and former Karnataka chief minister B.S. Yeddyurappa (Karnataka), MLA and OBC leader K. Laxman (Telangana), and former MP Tapir Gao (Arunachal Pradesh).
BJP president Amit Shah favored Maurya as party chief in UP which will have elections next year. Maurya, who spent 14 years in the Sangh, is a veteran of the cow protection and Ram Temple movements. An OBC leader representing Phulpur in the Lok Sabha, he was also associated with the VHP. Interestingly, the other leaders in the race for the party’s top slot in the country’s biggest state were also OBC leaders, Dharampal Singh and Swatantra Dev.
Leaders toeing a strong Hindutva line have been in ascendance in the BJP’s state units for quite some time. Last year, Shah chose such leaders to head the party in Kerala and West Bengal.
The other striking feature in the five appointments is the ruling party’s eye on caste equations. For instance, in Punjab, which goes to polls next year, Dalit’s comprise almost one-third of the total population—the highest in terms of percentage in any state. Sampla’s appointment seems related to this fact.