With just 15 months for Gujarat to go into the assembly polls in December 2022, BharatiyaJanata Party (BJP) decided to replace Vijay Rupani, considered close to Union Home Minister Amit Shah, with Bhupendra Patel, an Anandiben Patel-loyalist, as the Gujarat chief minister similar to how Anandiben Patel Gotoldiya was replaced by Vijay Rupani in 2016.
Source – Business Standard
With Gujarat politics, politicians and ideologies defining Indian democratic elections, in order to understand the reason behind this surreptitious change we first need to go back a little and understand Gujarat electoral politics itself.
Gujarat elections over the years have come to closely represent the status of the general elections in India. It exudes a great sense of the importance of who will be at the helm of running the entire country. One of the main reasons this shift of importance to Gujarat has occurred can be pointed to the fact that the face of politics in India is nowadays identified with two of the most prominent politicians of this century- Narendra Modi and Amit Shah. The Shah- Modi collaboration plays a huge role in anchoring the power towards Gujarat seeing that both are its residents.
Gujarat politics is quite diverse, mostly influenced by its different community groups, and because vote banks have come to represent a crucial variable in the game of politics, a lot of the decisions related to politics itself are defined by caste and ideologies.
Vijay Rupani was the first Gujarat CM from the Jain Community, a minority but influential vote bank. With rivals within the stronger Patel-Patidar community, it is said that this might have been something that worked against his effective ruling of the state. In 2016, when Vijay Rupani replaced Anandiben Patel, handpicked by PM Modi, as Gujarat chief minister, he was not the lead contender. Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel was, but Amit Shah’s backing Vijay Rupani helped him to get the success necessary for him.
Source – The Indian Express
Rupani’s tenure however at the end was filled with potholes that were difficult to fill.
The first issue was the electoral performance under Vijay Rupani which did not touch the three-figure mark in the 182-member Gujarat Assembly. The last time that the BJP won less than 100 seats in the Gujarat election was in 1990, and though the BJP secured victories in most of the assembly by-polls and the local elections in the past year, the success was not seen as proof of his political prowess. CR Paatil, who was given the charge of the Gujarat BJP last year ahead of municipal body polls, received the credit for leading the BJP to victory.
The second was the covid casualty of the Gujarat government, with the BJP circles stating the Covid response of the Rupani government being a critical factor for his upheaval. Even the Gujarat high court in April 2021 stated that the shortage of medical oxygen, medicines, hospital beds and overall management of healthcare conditions in the State enabled it to remark that the workings of the government was “not satisfactory and not transparent”. Last but the most important factor was the pressure to ensure that the Patil-Patidar community remains placated. Comprising 20% of the Gujarat population, the Patil community is divided into two groups- the YuvaPatels and the Kadwa Patel.
The BJP here is doing some forward-thinking. It knows that to win the 2022 Gujarat winter elections and UP 2024 elections it needs to keep its Hindu vote bank satisfied. With the Patel’s being an important component to winning the 2022 elections, it has ensured leaders from both the sub-groups to be selected for major positions. To mollify the Yuva Patel, Mansukh Mandaviya was elected as the Union Minister of Health & Family Welfare and Chemical and Fertilizers of India and finally for the Kadwa Patel’s we have Bhupendra Patel.
Source – India Today
At 59 years of age, Bhupendra Patel is considered to be the protégé of Anandiben Patel. He had won the 2017 Gujarat Assembly polls with the highest margin from the former chief minister’s constituency of Ghatlodiya. He had also held the positions of the president of Memnagar municipality in Ahmedabad, was the chairman of the standing committee of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) and also the Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority (AUDA) in the past.
With the Gujarat elections nearing the turn, the Modi-Shah managed pseudo Gujarat government although changing faces, is still said and felt to be controlled by the two big names. And even though they cannot rule both the State and the country at the same time, to ensure victory this change was a necessity. Will it help them? That is yet to be seen.
Written by- Prahlad Borthakur
Edited by- Jasmine Kaur Bhatia