Now you see him, now you don’t. Ajay Mishra ‘Teni’ is hiding in plain sight in the BJP campaign in Uttar Pradesh as the party keeps the Union Minister of State for Home whose son is facing murder charges at arm’s length, but within reach.
Much as the allegation that Mishra’s son Ashish was part of the convoy that ran into a farmer protest march in Lakhimpur Kheri, leaving five dead, is embarrassing for the BJP, the MoS can’t be easily dispensed with given his value as a Brahmin. The regime of ‘Thakur’ Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath is often accused of leaving the Brahmins alienated, and as all parties sniff an opportunity, Mishra had been notably inducted in the July shake-up of his Council of Ministers by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He was the only Brahmin face from UP included.
So while the BJP can hardly shake off Mishra, a two-term MP with considerable clout in Lakhimpur Kheri, and has held firm against the Opposition’s demands to sack him, he has not been part of any of the recent party organisational activities ahead of the Assembly polls.
While Mishra was part of the Sunday meeting of Brahmin leaders from UP held in Delhi, where a four-member committee was constituted to draw a roadmap to reach out to Brahmins, he was absent at the meeting those Brahmin leaders held with party national president J P Nadda the next day. Mishra has not been assigned any task under the Brahmin outreach programme, a source said.
Neither has Mishra been engaged in any event of the ongoing BJP Jan Vishwas Yatras across the state, sources said. On the other hand, BJP’s UP leaders like Bhanu Pratap Singh Verma, Kaushal Kishore, Pankaj Chaudhary and S P Singh Baghel, who were inducted into the Union Ministry the same time as Mishra, are a prominent part of the Yatras as well as BJP sammelans.
Mishra was a non-presence even in the 20-plus meetings in eight Assembly constituencies covered during the three-day Lakhimpur leg of the Yatra. Here the prominent speakers included Kaiserganj MP Brij Bhushan Sharan Singh, Unnao MP Sakshi Maharaj and Misrikh MP Ashok Kumar Rawat, apart from other leaders.
Earlier, sources said, Mishra kept out of a December 14 ‘karya yojana baithak’ held by BJP state organisational in-charge Radha Mohan Singh in Lakhimpur with MPs as well as MLAs. This was despite his photograph being part of a poster displayed at the meeting, and tweeted by Singh.
A BJP leader said the party was unlikely to engage Mishra in campaign-related activities, though he might be deployed for canvassing at Lakhimpur when the elections are announced given his popularity as an “active and aggressive” leader.
Away from the UP battlefield, Mishra has been pretty busy. His Twitter handle has routine updates on the MoS’s meetings in Delhi and other parts of the country — a fact that BJP leaders have taken to stressing when asked about Mishra.
Rajya Sabha MP Shiv Pratap Shukla, who heads the BJP committee formed for Brahmin outreach, said: “The party has not kept Ajay Mishra Teni out from party programmes. He has his own busy schedule in his capacity as Minister of State for Home Affairs.”
BJP state spokesperson Rakesh Tripathi said, “In the BJP, the party organisation decides the programmes of leaders and workers. And despite him (Mishra) being busy in ministry’s works, the party is utilising him according to his availability.”
Mishra could not be reached for comments, on phone or via a text message.