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Ex-IAS officer who worked closely with Modi for two decades joins BJP

Having worked closely with Narendra Modi for about 20 years, first in the Chief Minister’s Office of Gujarat and then at the Centre after Modi became Prime Minister, Arvind Kumar Sharma joined the BJP on Thursday.

The 1988 batch IAS officer of the Gujarat cadre, Sharma took voluntary retirement earlier this week, more than a year before his superannuation in July 2022.

Sharma was inducted into the party in presence of Uttar Pradesh BJP unit president Swatantra Dev Singh and Deputy Chief Minister Dinesh Sharma.

Speaking to mediapersons after joining the BJP, Arvind Kumar Sharma thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi and claimed to be the “son of the soil from a backward village of Mau”, which is part of Purvanchal region of the Uttar Pradesh.

“I am from a village in Mau, rather a backward village. As you all know, Purvanchal is a bit backward region of Uttar Pradesh. I became an IAS officer after much hard work and struggle… To suddenly pick a person like me. A person, who does not have any political background or political family or legacy and to bring such a person in politics, only Narendra Modi or the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) can do,” Arvind Kumar Sharma said, adding that he would do whatever work the party assigns to him.

Sharma’s joining the BJP comes amid the nominations for the Legislative Council polls in Uttar Pradesh. The ruling BJP is likely to win a majority of the 12 Legislative Council seats that would go to polls on January 28. The last date for filing of nomination papers is January 18.

Sources in the BJP said that the former IAS officer is likely to be nominated in the polls.

Welcoming him to the party, UP BJP chief said that Arvind Kumar Sharma’s “image of an honest officer would not only increase the stature of the party but also his stature.

Singh said that despite being in services, Sharma continued to work for the society, both in Gujarat as well as in his village in Mau like helping in marriage of girls.

Arvind Kumar Sharma began his career as an assistant collector in Gujarat and quickly rose to become a secretary in the Chief minister’s Office (CMO) in October 2001, when Modi became the chief minister of the state. He has been a part of Modi’s close circle of bureaucrats.

The only break in this association, which lasted through Modi’s three terms as CM, was in 2006 when Sharma went to Australia for training.

Within the CMO in Gujarat, Sharma rose to the rank of additional principal secretary to the CM by 2013-14. He was instrumental in taking forward Modi’s biennial global investment summit “Vibrant Gujarat” project that played a key role in transforming the image of a riot-hit state to an investment destination.

When BJP won the Lok Sabha election in 2014 and Modi became PM, Sharma was the first handful of officers who accompanied Modi to Delhi. His first posting in Delhi was joint secretary to the PMO. He remained in the PMO till April 2020 when he was appointed as the secretary of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME). Eight months later Sharma took an early retirement which was accepted by the Centre on January 11, 2021.

Despite being a close aide of Modi in the bureaucracy, he has always maintained a low-profile. His association with Modi is only second to another Gujarat cadre officer PK Mishra of the 1972 batch who is currently the principal secretary to PM Modi.

When contacted by The Indian Express for a comment on his early retirement, Sharma did not respond.

Bhumihar by caste – the dominant caste in Purvanchal region – Sharma after completing his schooling from Mau district, went to Prayagraj and did postgraduation in political science.

Meanwhile, BJP leaders in his home district Mau expressed home that Sharma would be given bigger responsibility in the party ahead of the 2022 Assembly elections in the state.

“While we already have one cabinet minister in Dara Singh Chauhan from our district, Arvind Kumar Sharma’s joining would only strengthen the party in Purvanchal,” said Praveen Kumar Gupta, BJP district president of Mau.

“Our party does not take decisions in a haste. We hope to see him in bigger roles,” he added.

Sharma’s village Khaja Khurd falls in Muhammadabad Gohna Assembly constituency, which was won by BJP’s Ram Sonkar in 2017.

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