Will Patidars back BJP again in Gujarat?

Will Patidars back BJP again in Gujarat?

The party stunned everyone by bringing 25 new faces to rule the state

Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel. Credit: PTI File Photo

In his very first cabinet meeting recently, newly appointed Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel asked his ministers and officers to keep Mondays and Tuesdays for the common man and elected representatives, who come to them with grievances and other issues. The decision, says party leaders, is a reflection of “image makeover” of the state government which had taken a beating in the previous Vijay Rupani government.

With just over a year to 2022 Assembly polls, the BJP government wants to come out of the image of the Rupani government, which was often mocked at for being “remote controlled” and the actual reign was in the hands of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah. Besides, over the last six years of his rule, several party heavyweights had created their own power centres.

Besides, being aware of the massive anti-incumbency factor and workers’ fatigue for being in power since 1998 uninterrupted, the BJP between September 12 and 16, made a precedent in the country’s political landscape by removing all previous ministers including Rupani. Some of the ministers included local heavyweights such as Nitin Patel, Saurav Patel, Pradipsinh Jadeja.

Also read: Tough task before new Uttarakhand CM

The party stunned everyone by bringing 25 new faces to rule the state. The 59 year-old little known first-time legislator Bhupendra Patel was anointed as the new CM and 24 other MLAs were promoted as ministers; barring three ministers, all are inexperienced including the CM. They have been handpicked solely on the basis of their castes. Some 15 of them are from Patidars and OBC groups, which form the largest vote bank in the state.

Political observers say that the new CM has been brought at the helm not because of his political acumen but due to his “loyalty” to party high command. “In all, this is just an attempt to woo Patidars as the CM happens to be a trustee of several prominent Patidar organisations. BJP will seek votes not in Patel’s but in the name of Modi and Shah only,” said a BJP veteran.

Meanwhile, the opposition Congress is struggling to find new faces for the post of its state president and other members of the state committee. The party is divided into several camps who are claiming these posts for their own group leaders. It is hoping that its house will be back in order soon. Based on its last election result, when it was closest to defeating the BJP, the Congress is hoping that the anti-incumbency factor will play a big role.

Congress has popular Patidar leader Hardik Patel as its state working president while independent MLA and popular Dalit leader Jignesh Mevani is set to join the party soon. This election also holds importance for the party in view of the fact that it will be the first election without its senior leader Ahmed Patel who passed away last year.

However, the advent of AAP in Gujarat is likely to upset Congress’ prospects. The party, with its aggressive campaigns, ousted Congress from Surat municipal body earlier this year and became the main opposition to the ruling BJP. The emergence of AAP has equally worried the BJP. Soon after its success in Surat, the party has been reaching out to voters, focussing majorly in rural Gujarat.

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