Annapurna Devi: From being a politician by default to union minister - Hindustan Times
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Annapurna Devi: From being a politician by default to union minister

Jun 13, 2024 12:38 AM IST

Known for her soft-speaking nature, Annapurna Devi went on to grow in the BJP hierarchy after her victory in Koderma in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

Annapurna Devi, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) MP from Koderma in Jharkhand, was one of the 30 cabinet ministers who were part of the 71-member cabinet of Prime Minister Narendra Modi sworn in at the Rashtrapati Bhawan on June 9.

New Delhi, June 11 (ANI): Annapurna Devi takes charge as the Union Minister for Women and Child Development, in New Delhi on Tuesday. (ANI Photo)(PIB) PREMIUM
New Delhi, June 11 (ANI): Annapurna Devi takes charge as the Union Minister for Women and Child Development, in New Delhi on Tuesday. (ANI Photo)(PIB)

The 55-year-old, who was minister of state for education in the second term of Modi from 2014-19, was given the charge of the department of women and child development, which was earlier headed by former minister Smriti Irani.

Devi, who has declared assets worth around 13 crores in her election affidavit, secured her second consecutive term in the Lower House of Parliament with a margin of 377014 in Jharkhand, defeating three-term Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) (CPI-ML) legislator Vinod Singh.

In 2019, she had won by a margin of around 4.5 lakh, emerging a giant killer as she defeated the then Jharkhand Vikas Morcha---Prajatantrik (JVM-P) president and first chief minister of Jharkhand, Babulal Marandi. Marandi later merged his party with the BJP and is currently heading the saffron party’s Jharkhand unit.

Though she made her appearance in the national political space after she was inducted as MoS in Modi’s second term, Devi has been a key political figure in state politics, even before Jharkhand was created in 2000.

Belonging to the dominant Yadav community, her political roots lie in the Lalu Yadav-led Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD). She was once considered a close aide of the RJD chief and remained the face of the party in Jharkhand till she switched sides and joined the BJP in 2019.

However, her entry into politics at a young age was not by choice but by default. Hailing from Dumka district in Jharkhand, Devi was married to Janata Dal leader Ramesh Kumar Yadav, a strongman from Koderma who became a member of the Bihar assembly for the first time in 1990 on a Janata Dal ticket.

Yadav won the Koderma assembly for the second time in 1995, and owing to his closeness to Lalu Prasad, was inducted in the cabinet. He sided with Lalu when he split from Janata Dal and formed the RJD.

However, Yadav’s sudden demise in 1998 forced his wife Devi to carry forward the political legacy. Besides winning the Koderma assembly by-election in 1998, she went on to win the seat consecutively in 2000, 2005 and 2009.

Devi was made a minister in Rabri Devi’s cabinet in 2000. However, she had to relinquish the post following the bifurcation of Bihar as Koderma, which shares a boundary with south Bihar, became part of Jharkhand and BJP came to power in alliance with regional outfits including the JDU and AJSU Party.

Though Lalu’s party gradually lost its grip on Jharkhand politics, as compared to Bihar, Devi, however, continued to remain one of the most visible faces of the RJD in state politics. She got ministerial berths in the UPA government led by Shibu Soren in 2005 and later under Hemant Soren in 2013.

She tasted her first electoral setback when she lost to BJP’s Neera Yadav in the 2014 assembly elections. However, owing to her trust in the top RJD leadership, she was made the president of the state unit. But as the 2019 Lok Sabha election drew closer, the political churning in the state, both in the RJD as well as in the BJP, made her switch sides and join the BJP.

“The then chief minister Raghubar Das and state in-charge Bhupendra Yadav played a crucial role in bringing Devi into the saffron-fold. The BJP was looking for a strong OBC face. The party leadership also thought induction of the then state president of the RJD would dent the party heavily, which proved to be true later,” a senior BJP leader, who asked not to be named, said.

A leader close to the union minister said while BJP’s offer right from the top was a pull factor, push factors were emerging out of the changing power dynamics within the RJD that acted as a catalyst for her to quit the party.

“The power equations within the RJD were also changing. Though she was the state unit president, some other power centres had also emerged in the party. One of the major faces was Subhash Yadav, a strongman from Gaya, and equally close to the Lalu family, who had started showing interest in the affairs of the Jharkhand unit headed by Annapurna. Groupism started in the state unit. A money bag, Subhash went on to contest from Chatra Lok Sabha on RJD ticket despite the seat being allocated to the Congress,” a senior RJD leader said.

Known for her soft-speaking nature, Devi went on to grow in the BJP hierarchy after her victory in Koderma in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. Besides being inducted as MoS in the education ministry, she was also made the national vice-president of the party. Having secured the biggest victory margin in Jharkhand in the 2024 parliamentary elections, she has now been promoted to the cabinet rank.

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