Annapurna Devi as Union Women & Child Development Minister: Decoding the political significance in 5 points

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Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) Member of Parliament from Jharkhand, Annapurna Devi succeeds Smriti Irani as the new Minister of Women and Child Development in the Prime Minister Narendra Modi government’s third term government. Irani was dropped from the new cabinet after she lost her Amethi seat in Lok Sabha elections 2024 to Congress leader Kishori Lal Sharma.

Fifty-five-year-old Devi is one of the two women Cabinet ministers in the PM Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) at the Centre. The other woman minister in the 30-member cabinet is Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

Who is Annapurna Devi? 

Elected from the Koderma Lok Sabha seat in Jharkhand for the second straight term, Devi has served as the Union Minister of State for Education in previous Modi government after 2021. Devi and Ranchi MP Sanjay Seth are two ministers in the PM Modi cabinet from the tribal-dominated Jharkhand.

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Devi was with the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) until she quit the party months before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls and switched to the BJP. In the 2024 general election, she won by the biggest margin in Jharkhand. Devi defeated the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) candidate Vinod Singh with a margin of 3,77,014 votes.

This is Devi’s second term as MP. In 2019 she defeated former CM Babulal Marandi by 4.55 lakh votes as a BJP candidate.

In politics from 1998

Devi jumped into politics after the death of her husband, Ramesh Yadav, a RJD legislator, in 1998. Devi contested in the by-polls and won to became a member of the then united Bihar Legislative Assembly.  She has served as Minister of State for Mines and Geology in the RJD government of undivided Bihar. In 2000, southern Bihar was ceded to form the new state of Jharkhand.

Devi served as MLA in Jharkhand assembly for two terms between 2005 and 2014. She served the Minister of Irrigation, Women and Child Welfare, and Registration in Jharkhand in 2012. 

The political significance?

Before she joined the BJP, Devi was the RJD’s chief in Jharkhand chief. Her rise within the BJP party ranks is a testament of her political significance as the face of the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in Jharkhand. The OBC community constitute over 45 percent of Jharkhand’s population, according to the last census.

Many say that the move to induct Devi in the cabinet is saffron party’s effort to consolidate OBC vote bank in its favour. Devi comes from Yadav caste. The Yadav community — the third biggest OBC block — may help the BJP retain its ground in the Jharkhand Assembly election scheduled later this year.

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BJP, it is said, has tried to keep its core voters happy by inducting Sanjay Seth, who represents Baniya caste. Seth, who was also a minister in the previous government, defeated Yashaswini Sahay, daughter of veteran Congress leader Subodh Kant Sahay, in Ranchi. This is Seth’s second term as Ranchi MP. 

NDA setbacks in Jharkhand

The NDA had some setbacks from Jharkhand this time. Former Union Minister Arjun Munda and former Chief Minister Madhu Koda’s wife Geeta Koda lost the elections

Overall, the JMM-led INDIA bloc won five of the 14 Lok Sabha seats in Jharkhand. The NDA won 9 seats. In 2019 , the NDA had won 12 Lok Sabha seats in the state.

Jharkhand Assembly Elections

The assembly elections to 81 seats of Jharkhand are due in November-December 2024. 

In 2019 assembly polls, the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM)-led alliance, which includes Congress and RJD won an absolute majority in the Jharkhand elections by bagging 47 seats.

This time the dynamics may change with the former Cheif Minister Hemant Soren in jail in connection with a money-laundering case. 

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Published: 12 Jun 2024, 01:26 PM IST

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