BJP can't afford to lose Jyoti before UP polls

BJP can't afford to lose Jyoti before UP polls

Prime Minister Narendra Modi may not have minced words in conveying his annoyance to Union Minister of State of Food Processing Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti for her use of abusive language at a BJP rally in Delhi, but there is little that Modi can do about her, at least until the crucial Assembly elections to Uttar Pradesh in 2017.

Despite the Opposition unwilling to let the Rajya Sabha, where the Government does not have enough numbers function until the former VHP central secretary quit, BJP leaders say Modi will not remove her. “The BJP cannot dismount the tiger so easily,” said a party functionary.

The Sadhvi’s induction into the Union Council of Ministers in November was to underline her rise as a woman leader belonging to the most backward Nishad community.

Known for her fiery oratory, Jyoti caught the attention of top BJP leaders as the new face of UP’s OBC leadership. The Nishads live along the riverbank belt, form a major vote-bank in UP, and have been assiduously wooed by the BJP.

The second Sadhvi in the government after Water Resources Minister Uma Bharti, the 47-year-old Jyoti had made her mark as a VHP-RSS functionary with fiery religious sermons. Ever since the decline of the influence of former chief minister Kalyan Singh, who moved to Rajasthan as governor, the BJP has had a problem finding a fresh backward face in UP.

She had won her debut election from the Hamirpur Assembly constituency in 2012.

Modi inducted Jyoti into his government after agreeing with BJP president Amit Shah's assessment that she helped the party make inroads among the Dalit and backward classes. Her importance was underscored by the fact that she was the only woman among the 21 members inducted into the council of ministers in November. With her induction, the number of women in the council went up to eight.

Any action against her at this juncture might actually create problems for the BJP, say state leaders. Jyoti is no stranger to politics of confrontation. On June 14, she had filed a complaint with the police on being attacked at a private function in the Civil Lines area of Fatehpur district. She alleged that Samajwadi Party leaders were trying to kill her to facilitate a bypoll.

Also, her affidavit for the Lok Sabha elections mentioned charges against her pertaining to criminal intimidation.

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