Reshuffle in Centre and four states signals BJP’s intent to beat anti-incumbency, bring fresh faces

Over the past few months, change has been the only constant within the BJP government at the Centre as well as states.

By reshuffling the Union cabinet and bringing in new leaders in states, it is trying to rope in fresh faces into the ruling dispensation.

On Saturday, Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani joined counterparts Trivendra Singh Rawat, Tirath Singh Rawat, Sarbananda Sonowal and BS Yediyurappa, who all made way for new leadership to take over in their respective states recently.

The reasons for a change of guard vary from state to state and leader to leader, but the message seems to be the same.

Most BJP leaders that ET spoke to were of the view that the leadership change has been done to counter anti-incumbency.

The party is trying to adopt people’s opinions and narrative.

As per the leaders, the Covid-19 pandemic has challenged every aspect of life and has significantly contributed towards anti-incumbency at several levels. This is true of governments led by all political parties, they said.

BJP is making a course correction much ahead of rivals to capture the popular mood in its favour, they added.

That is the reason why in the recent cabinet reshuffle, it was presented as almost a new government, with popular names like Ravi Shankar Prasad, Harshvardhan and Prakash Javadekar making way for a new set of leaders.

It was presented as the youngest cabinet with representation given to all sections of society, bringing in a freshness to the government structure.

“It becomes easier in states to change if the person is a nominated chief minister and not an elected one because the voting takes place in the name of the party and our PM Narendra Modi. It also puts to rest the anger among voters and workers against that government and leader to some extent,” a BJP leader said on condition of anonymity.

One aspect that several BJP leaders mentioned was that a demand for change in leadership always came from the state and the central leadership weighed all possible options before going ahead.

The uneasiness among the state leadership has prompted the party to change three chief ministers in Uttarakhand within six months.

There are, of course, exceptions to the rule.

Despite being a nominated chief minister, Yogi Adityanath is the most popular party face in Uttar Pradesh and his presence as a leader adds to the votes.

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