Annapurna Devi, 51, who was inducted into the Union’s Council of Ministers on Wednesday as Minister of State for Education, joined the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) ahead of the 2019 national elections. She was the leader of Rashtriya Janata Dal’s Jharkhand Unit (RJD) led by Lalu Prasad Yadav when she defected from the BJP and won the election of Lok Sabha of Koderma. Devi defeated former chief minister Babulal Marandi, a joint United Progressive Alliance candidate, by around 450,000 votes.
Devi was vice president of BJP’s Jharkhand unit before her elevation to national vice president. She was also named the Haryana Co-Head of BJP. Devi is the second minister of the Union of Jharkhand after Arjun Munda. Another Union Minister, Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, is also a member of the Rajya Sabha of Jharkhand.
Read also | Sonowal’s second stay in Delhi ends speculation over future role
Devi, who was born into a Bengali speaking family in Dumka, holds a master’s degree from Ranchi University. She joined politics after the death of her husband and RJD lawmaker Ramesh Yadav. She won a by-election to the State Assembly in 1998 and became a minister in the RJD government of undivided Bihar. She was re-elected as a member of the Assembly in 2000, 2005 and 2009. She became a minister in Jharkhand in 2013 before losing the assembly elections a year later. Devi has become the face of the BJP’s other backward class (OBC), especially after the BJP was defeated in the 2019 parliamentary elections under the leadership of Raghubar Das.
BJP insiders have said that Devi’s rise and her rapid rise in BJP indicate that central management is banking on her in Jharkhand. “Belonging to a Yadav family, Annapurna Devi could play a crucial role in seducing the OBC vote bank, especially in the neighboring districts of Bihar which have a large number of Yadav voters. It could also play a crucial role in seducing Bengali-speaking voters in the areas of Santhal on the Bengal border, ”said a leader of Jharkhand BJP, who declined to be named.
A ruling leader of Jharkhand Mukti Morcha acknowledged Devi’s impact in the Dumka Lok Sabha election in 2019. “… our leader Shibu Soren has lost. Although she is new to BJP, she campaigned in the Masiliya area and had an impact on the Bengali speaking population. Although she didn’t speak much against our leader, her presence made a difference in the outcome, ”the leader said on condition of anonymity.