Baby Rani Maurya
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A brief biography
Baby Rani Maurya was not quite languishing in obscurity until last week. Though not someone who can boast of pan-UP recognition, the 62 year-old Dalit served as mayor of Agra for five years, beginning 1995. In a political career spanning decades ,she remained faithful to BJP even when her fellow Jatavs flocked to BSP.
The steadfast loyalty fetched her rewards, with the Vajpayee government nominating her to the National Commission for Women. She got responsibilities within the organisation, too, serving as treasurer of BJP’s Scheduled Caste Cell when Ram Nath Kovind, now the President, helmed it. She also served as secretary of the party’s state unit.
Yet, there was surprise in UP and in Lutyens’ Delhi when PM Narendra Modi picked her to be the Uttarakhand governor. Sources said Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah sorted through sheaves of resumes of gubernatorial aspirants from within BJP and the Parivar as well as “eminent” outsiders keen to hitch their stars to the saffron wagon before settling on Maurya to succeed K K Paul, former chief of Delhi Police.
The choice of Maurya, as well as that of fellow Dalit Satyadeo Narayan Arya, who has been appointed governor of Haryana, has naturally been seen through the prism of BJP’s need to win over Dalits in the lead-up to the 2019 polls. The community, which was an important factor in Modi’s win in 2014 and, again, in BJP’s landslide win in UP in 2017, is said to be be restive and considering a return to BSP, their original political platfor m.
Although BJP has tried to control damage by amending the law to negate the SC verdict which allegedly diluted the SC&ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, it is felt the party needs to do more to ensure that the gains made among Dalits under Modi are not reversed.
BJP sources acknowledged that accommodating Dalits has been an important consideration with the party leadership under Modi-Shah, but asserted that this was of a piece with their endeavour to broaden the party’s appeal rather than being the result of some fresh political compulsion.
They pointed to the Modi government’s decision to expand the list of what would constitute “atrocity” against Dalits, the choice of Kovind for President, construction of Ambedkar National Memorial in Delhi in record time and acquisition of the London flat where the principal framer of the Constitution stayed and other measures to argue that Dalit outreach had run as a thread consistently through the tenure of the Modi government. As per sources, Maurya was preferred over other contenders also because of her gender, something which makes her the latest entrant in the club of women governors.