What's Special for Annapurna Devi: The New Women and Child Development Minister in Modi’s Third Term
What's Special for Annapurna Devi: The New Women and Child Development Minister in Modi’s Third Term

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

Devi, aged 55, is one of the two women Cabinet ministers in the PM Modi-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government at the Centre. The other woman minister in the 30-member cabinet is Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman.

Who is Annapurna Devi?

Annapurna Devi has been elected from the Koderma Lok Sabha seat in Jharkhand for the second consecutive term. She previously served as the Union Minister of State for Education in the Modi government post-2021. Alongside her, Sanjay Seth, the MP from Ranchi, also represents Jharkhand in the Modi cabinet.

Originally with the Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Devi switched to the BJP shortly before the 2019 Lok Sabha polls. In the recent 2024 general election, she won by the largest margin among all candidates in Jharkhand, defeating Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist) candidate Vinod Singh by a substantial margin of 3,77,014 votes. This marks her second term as an MP; in 2019, she defeated former CM Babulal Marandi of the Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik) by 4.55 lakh votes while contesting on the BJP ticket.

Political Journey

Devi entered politics in 1998 after the demise of her husband, Ramesh Yadav, a RJD legislator. She contested the by-polls and became a member of the united Bihar Legislative Assembly. She has previously served as the Minister of State for Mines and Geology in the RJD government of undivided Bihar. In 2000, after the formation of Jharkhand, she served two terms as MLA in the Jharkhand Assembly, where she held portfolios like Irrigation, Women and Child Welfare, and Registration.

Political Significance

Before joining the BJP, Devi was the RJD’s chief in Jharkhand, making her a prominent face of the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) in the state. With over 45 percent of Jharkhand’s population belonging to the OBC community, her induction into the cabinet is seen as the BJP’s attempt to consolidate the OBC vote bank. Devi hails from the Yadav caste, the third largest OBC group, which may help the BJP strengthen its position in the upcoming Jharkhand Assembly elections later this year.

Sanjay Seth, representing the Baniya caste, was also inducted into the cabinet to maintain BJP’s core voter base. He secured his second term as the MP from Ranchi by defeating Yashaswini Sahay, daughter of veteran Congress leader Subodh Kant Sahay.

NDA Setbacks in Jharkhand

In the recent Lok Sabha elections, the NDA faced setbacks in Jharkhand, with losses for prominent leaders like former Union Minister Arjun Munda and former Chief Minister Madhu Koda’s wife, Geeta Koda. Overall, the JMM-led INDIA bloc won five of the 14 Lok Sabha seats in the state, while the NDA managed to secure nine seats. In 2019, the NDA had won 12 Lok Sabha seats in Jharkhand.

Jharkhand Assembly Elections

The assembly elections for the 81 seats in Jharkhand are scheduled for November-December 2024. In the 2019 assembly polls, the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM)-led alliance, which includes Congress and RJD, secured an absolute majority by winning 47 seats.

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