The president of the Gujarat BJP unit, C R Paatil, has stated that Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel will oversee another term, ahead of the state assembly elections this year. Paatil made the announcement in an event, said reports.
“Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel has done good work and he would be repeated (for another term),” said Paatil when asked about who would be the party’s next chief minister, at a TV9 event. Patel, a first-time MLA, was the BJP’s surprise choice as chief minister following the resignation of Vijay Rupani in September last year.
Now, as Patel is apparently set to be the party’s face for the Gujarat elections, political experts assign a myriad of reasons to the choice. News18 explores some of them:
Why Bhupendra Was Chosen in the 1st Place Lends Clues…
To replace Rupani, Patel seemed like a near-ideal choice. According to reports, Patel has an unblemished image, and most importantly, he was the youngest candidate for the position. BJP leaders in New Delhi were quoted as saying by India Today that because he brought no baggage to the position, he would be ‘much easier to control and appease Patidar satraps through the party high command’. “A leader with a clean slate has an advantage. It aids in power balancing," a Delhi leader was quoted as saying.
Why Patels are Important
Patidars (or Patels) claim to be Lord Ram’s descendants. The community accounts for 12-14 per cent of the electorate but is extremely powerful, both financially and politically, and is spread throughout the state, with a concentration in north Gujarat and Saurashtra. In at least 70 of the 182 assembly segments, their votes determine the outcome. They are an important voting bloc for the BJP, accounting for one-third of its MLAs.
The Patidar community, which constitutes the BJP’s core vote bank, was seen as drifting away from it in recent years, a report by the Indian Express states. This was reflected in the February local body elections, where, despite the BJP winning almost all of the bodies, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) stormed into Surat, home to state party chief CR Paatil, to become the municipal corporation’s main opposition, fueled by anti-BJP Patidar votes.
The death of late BJP CM Keshubhai Patel last year left a void in the community, as he had dared to fight the BJP in 2012, backed by many of its Patidar leaders. Younger Patidar leaders had openly demanded that the next CM be elected from within the community, IE reported.
The BJP has also performed admirably in the two elections it has faced: those for the Gandhinagar Municipal Corporation and nearly 9,000 gramme panchayats. While the BJP won 41 of the 44 Gandhinagar corporation seats, it is estimated that it won more than 70% of the gram panchayat seats, which are not contested on party lines.
A ‘Steady Term’?
According to another report by the Indian Express, the BJP has also performed well in the two elections it has faced under Bhupendra: those for the Gandhinagar Municipal Corporation and nearly 9,000 gram panchayats. While the BJP won 41 of the 44 Gandhinagar corporation seats, it is estimated that it won more than 70% of the gramme panchayat seats, which are not contested on party lines, the report said.
The report also quotes a senior party office-bearer as saying that the ‘CM is a man who takes decisions slowly but steadily, keeping to his “limitations”.
The adds that he does not believe the Bhupendra Patel government was appointed in the hope of “performing a miracle," pointing out that the brief was clear: to make no major mistakes.
The leader further says that given Bhupendra’s lack of experience in the top position and the current difficult times, he deserved credit for not making any bad decisions. “And when mistakes were made (such as the failure to appoint an OBC Commission in time to meet a court requirement, or the cattle Bill), damage control was done quickly," they said.
‘No Problem With What Anyone Eats’
Reports also credit Patel with not allowing his government to be ‘bogged down by unnecessary squabbles typically associated with the BJP and often sparked by its affiliated outfits’.
As an IE report argues, at the height of protests by some BJP leaders against non-veg food being sold on the streets, one of Patel’s most forceful public statements was that his government “had no problem with what anyone ate."