Arvind Kumar Sharma, a former bureaucrat and a close aide of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, joined the Bharatiya Janata Party on Thursday at the party’s office in Lucknow. Sharma’s decision triggered speculations about his role in the Uttar Pradesh Assembly elections of 2022.

The development came days after Sharma took voluntary retirement from the administrative services on January 11. He was the secretary in the Ministry of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, according to NDTV.

BJP’s Uttar Pradesh unit spokesperson Naveen Srivastava called Sharma’s foray into the party fold a “big joining”. “We are happy to have him in our party,” he told The Print. “He has immense experience in civil services, definitely he will add huge potential to the party.”

Sharma is likely to contest for a place in the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Council and may be assigned an important post in the Adityanath-led government, according to reports. Elections to the 12 seats of the Legislative Council are due on January 28.

“Cabinet reshuffle will happen in Uttar Pradesh soon,” an unidentified state BJP leader told The Print “AK Sharma may get an important position in the Cabinet. He could even become deputy chief minister. Sharma belongs to the Bhumihar community and his inclusion will give a strong message in Purvanchal.”

BJP Uttar Pradesh Secretary Chandramohan, however, refused to divulge any details about the bureaucrat’s future responsibilities. “We have no idea as of today [Thursday] what responsibility he will get, the party high command will decide about it,” he said.

Sharma is a 1988 batch Indian Administrative Services officer from the Gujarat cadre. He has been associated with Modi since the latter became the chief minister of Gujarat in 2001.

The former bureaucrat was part of the Prime Minister’s Office as well as the Chief Minister’s Office during Modi’s tenure. When Modi was in Gujarat, Sharma was the chief executive of the Gujarat Infrastructure Development Board. He joined the Prime Minister’s Office in 2014, when the BJP came to power with a resounding victory, and was elevated to the post of additional secretary in 2017.

In a career spanning nearly two decades, Sharma earned the prime minister’s trust with his “results-driven approach”, BJP leaders told NDTV.