Herald View: Why Ajay Mishra ‘Teni’ will not be asked to go before UP assembly election

What are the PM’s compulsions in retaining the MoS Home, a political lightweight? Why was he given the important portfolio of Home? Answers hold the key to why he will stay for now

Visuals from Lakhimpur Kheri
Visuals from Lakhimpur Kheri
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Herald View

Whether Union Minister of State for Home, Ajay Mishra Teni, resigns or is dismissed will depend neither on political morality nor Rule of Law but on hard, political considerations. In the first place the obscure MP from Lakhimpur Kheri was made a union minister because of BJP’s need to placate a community in Uttar Pradesh. What remained unexplained was the decision to give him the important portfolio of Home. It is safe to assume that this too was influenced by the impending assembly election in the state. In short, the minister is far too important for BJP’s scheme of things till the election gets over. If this assessment is correct, then there is little chance of the minister being sacked. That would also explain his own serial misconduct.

Confident of his own indispensability he threw caution to the wind while threatening to teach farmers a lesson in ‘two minutes’. Indeed, he publicly boasted of his criminal antecedents. He allowed his son to drive out with his henchmen to deal with farmers who had gathered to greet the state’s deputy chief minister, invited by the union minister, with black flags. The overconfidence in his father’s importance would seem to have prompted the minister’s son to run over and kill farmers deliberately in Lakhimpur Kheri in October. He, falsely it now appears, claimed that his son had never left his side at home on the fateful day. This was contested by eyewitness accounts and by his son’s accomplices. Between October and mid-December therefore there were multiple occasions when he could have been asked to step down. But can one realistically expect the PM to do so now, just because an SIT set up by the UP government finds the ‘accident’ was a ‘pre-meditated’ conspiracy? Or just because the minister has been caught on camera misbehaving and abusing journalists?

Ajay Mishra Teni being a political lightweight, it should have been simple enough for the PM to secure his resignation. But if, as we suspect, the minister still does not quit, the question begging for an answer will be why he is so invaluable to the BJP’s election effort? He was hardly known beyond his own constituency before his induction into the Union cabinet. It is also far-fetched to describe him as a leader of his community or assume he can ensure the party’s victory in any region of the state. Is he then useful to the BJP in ways that the party does not want to acknowledge?


While the answer to that question is unlikely to be available, another explanation could be that Prime Minister Modi by nature is loath to concede he made a mistake. Even while repealing the farm laws after a year of a futile stand-off he blamed shortcomings in his ‘tapasya’ and not admit any flaw in the laws or in decision-making. He would be reluctant to retreat on yet another issue so soon after losing his battle with farmers. He could also be confident that no matter what the public mood, he can still pull off a win in UP; that Hindutva, not Teni, will matter more. However, it is important to remind him of his own words. While addressing the ‘Summit for Democracy’ hosted by US President Joe Biden, PM Modi asserted that ‘respect for rule of law and democratic spirit’ is ingrained in Indians and that accountability is one of the pillars of democracy. For once, he needs to live up to his words.

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Published: 17 Dec 2021, 1:00 PM