On Sunday, Bhupendra Patel, a Patidar leader and close aide of former CM and current Uttar Pradesh Governor, Anandiben Patel, was elected to be the new chief minister of Gujarat. He is going to take oath on Monday afternoon.
This move came after the senior BJP leader Vijay Rupani submitted his resignation at the party’s high command at the Raj Bhawan.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi cleared Mr Patel’s name after it got unanimously endorsed by central observers Narendra Singh Tomar and Prahlad Joshi in the presence of the MLAs and other senior leaders at the BJP Legislature Party meeting on Sunday.
This came as a surprising move as there was no popular opinion inclined towards Patel.
Party leaders, workers and media persons were centring their discussions around outgoing Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya and Praful Patel, Administrator of the Union Territories of Daman and Diu and Lakshadweep, to replace Rupani.
A first-time legislator, the 59-year old was elected from the Ghatlodia seat in 2017, once held by former CM and now Uttar Pradesh Governor Anandiben Patel.
Mr Patel, discerned as a leader with a mass voter base, belongs to the Patidar caste, which holds powerful clout in the state as the community accounts for roughly 1.5 crores of Gujarat’s six crore population.
On the other hand, the numbers are inconsequential for the Jain community, Mr Rupani’s base.
After Anandiben Patel resigned in 2016, Nitin Patel, another leader belonging to the Patidar community, was to be made CM. However, Amit Shah got his way, and Mr Rupani became the first Jain to be made CM, an influential minority in the state.
In the five years of his tenure, Shah’s Protege has been criticised intensely for his failure in managing the pandemic, leadership, and incompetence in organising the 2017 Floods and recent damages caused by Cyclone Tauktae.
There have been allegations of unfair distribution of compensation to people affected by the cyclone.
The top leaders of the BJP in Gujarat even said they had expected the leader’s removal 15 days before.
With the induction of Bhupendra Patel, another Patidar leader and the close aide of Mrs Patel at the helm, the baton has gone back to the former CM Anandiben Patel.
Known for lying low and maintaining a non-controversial image, Mr Patel also has a solid urban infrastructure profile.
“Bhupendrabhai, an urban face, the first leader from Ahmedabad city who has been made the CM. It suggests that the main focus of the party will be on urban cities in the elections,” a party leader said.
He held significant positions like chairman of the Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority and chairman of various committees of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, including its top decision-making Standing Committee.
His background in these cities can also help the party gain a stronghold in the towns like Ahmedabad, Surat, Rajkot and Vadodara in the coming polls.
The opposition’s views on this change are not so favourable. “I believe that government in Gujarat will be remote-controlled like it was before.” Paresh Dhanani, the opposition leader of Gujarat Vidhan Sabha, added, “It is only that the power centre has shifted”.
“Only the face has changed, but the problem persists.” It is being said that now the remote lies with Anandiben Patel when it slipped away from the hands of Amit Shah.
The change in power shift of the party politics has come ahead of the Assembly polls in the home state of PM Modi, where the shadow of fear looms large.
Under Mr Rupani’s leadership, the BJP performed dismally in the Assembly elections of 2017, winning just 99 of the 182 seats.