The inclusion of Anupriya Patel, the Mirzapur MP from Apna Dal, in the Narendra Modi ministry is purely aimed at Uttar Pradesh politics and the assembly elections next year, sources said.
She is also expected to merge Apna Dal, a fledgling caste-based party with its support base in eastern Uttar Pradesh, with the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in order to give a much needed boost to the latter in the state.
The BJP has been out of power in the state for the last 15 years.
Patel, 35, is the daughter of popular OBC Kurmi leader of his time Sonelal Patel who died in 2009.
The BJP hopes to use her to counter the youth leadership of Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav and the Dalit credentials of Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) supremo Mayawati.
The soft spoken lawmaker is a much sought after leader for the BJP in eastern Uttar Pradesh for her caste factor as Kurmis have sizeable strength in the region, including in Prime Minister Modi's constituency of Varanasi.
The significance of the caste factor she brings on board can be appreciated from the fact that the BJP, which favours contesting alone in the state, had readily aligned with her party for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls.
Educated at Lady Shri Ram College for Women in Delhi, Amity University and Kanpur University, she holds a Masters degrees in Psychology as well as in Business Administration.
The political grapevine has it that Patel resisted for months the BJP's overtures to her for a merger of the two parties, coming across as a politician with firm resolve.
As Lok Sabha MP, she is a member of various parliamentary panels, including the Committee on Empowerment of Women, Standing Committee on Petroleum and Natural Gas and the Committee on Welfare of Other Backward Classes (OBCs).
'Apna Dal, BJP alliance will free UP from SP, BSP'
Patel said her party, in alliance with the BJP, will free Uttar Pradesh from the clutches of the Samajwadi Party and Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP).
The Mirzapur MP said the aliance, which was established in 2014, has now scaled new heights.
“In these two years, both parties have worked together with harmony, affection and admiration. And if we continue to work in this manner then we will definitely be successful in our mission to rid Uttar Pradesh from the grasp of the SP and BSP,” Patel said.
“I would like to congratulate both parties on this occasion. I hope will be able to meet our goal by 2017,” she added.
She thanked BJP president Amit Shah and all the senior leaders in the party for considering her to be a part of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Cabinet.
“Above all I would also like to thank the BJP and Apna Dal. It is Dr Sone Lal Patel’s hard work and dedication that Apna Dal got the opportunity to become a part of the Cabinet,” she added.
President Pranab Mukherjee administered the oath of office and secrecy to the new Ministers at Rashtrapati Bhavan.
This was the second expansion of the Narendra Modi government. The first major Cabinet reshuffle was in November 2014.