Monday, 13 September 2021 | PNS | New Delhi
JP brass chose lightweight Patidar Bhupendra Patel for top job
The BJP’s central leadership on Sunday “hand-picked” a lightweight Patidar and first-time MLA Bhupendra Patel — known to be a protégé of former Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel — as the new Chief Minister of Gujarat in place of Vijay Rupani who resigned a day earlier, after holding the post of the State’s Chief Minister for close to four years. The choice of Patel surprised many State leaders and the front runners for the top post, including Nitin Patel, the Deputy Chief Minister, again lost the race.
A builder by profession, Bhupendra Patel staked his claim to the Chief Minister’s Office on Sunday in front of State Governor Acharya Devvrat and will be sworn in on Monday.
According to sources, Patel’s familiarity with the Gujarat business fraternity, a core voter base of the BJP, may also work in his favour.
While Patel was elected the leader of the Legislature Party after a meeting at Gandhinagar, it is well-known in the State BJP’s political circles that his appointment was finalised beforehand by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Minister Amit Shah. In choosing a first-time MLA and a low-profile face as the Chief Minister, Modi has made it clear that the elections in his home State will again be contested in his name and that the vote for the BJP would be a vote for Prime Minister Modi and for the Union Government.
In 2016, he was in the reckoning for the Chief Minister’s post with the backing of the outgoing Chief Minister Anandiben Patel but Shah is understood to have favoured Rupani at that time.
Union Minister Narendra Singh Tomar made the announcement after Patel’s name was approved at the BJP Legislature Party meeting.
Tomar and Union Minister Pralhad Joshi were the central observers at the party meeting and outgoing Chief Minister Rupani proposed Patel’s name, Tomar said.
“Bhupendra Patel is capable. We believe the BJP will win the forthcoming elections in the State under his leadership,” Rupani said after the announcement.
Amit Shah congratulated the new Chief Minister to be saying the BJP will win the Assembly elections under his leadership in December 2022.
Patel won from the Ghatlodiya constituency in 2017 Gujarat Legislative Assembly elections, defeating Shashikant Patel of the Congress by a record margin of 1,17,000 votes, the largest for any constituency in Gujarat for the BJP in that election.
He is the former Chairman of the Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority and has also been Chairman of the AMC Standing Committee.
In the 2017 Assembly elections, the BJP was down by 16 seats, winning only 99 seats in the 182-member House. The Congress fought tenaciously collecting 77 seats in what many saw as a close contest, with the latter increasing its vote share in the State.
The 2022 Assembly polls may be more challenging for the BJP which has to face a 27-year anti-incumbency and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) a new entrant in the fray. The AAP had won 27 seats in the Surat Municipal Corporation.
Ahead of Sunday’s Legislature Party meeting, the names of two Union Ministers from Gujarat — Mansukh Mandaviya and Parshottam Rupala — the controversial Lakshadweep administrator Praful Khoda Patel, and State Agriculture Minister RC Faldu were doing the rounds as the potential candidates for the top job.
Rupani, a Jain, stepped down on Saturday — 15 months ahead of the State elections — in a surprise move amid reports that his handling of the second wave of Covid and his lack of “coordination with State leaders and the bureaucracy” had come in way of his spearheading the party in the 2022 high-stake Assembly polls.