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As Nitin Patel Fights Off Rumours of Anti-Party Activities, Differences in Gujarat BJP Come to Fore

Nitin Patel did antagonise the party leadership to some extent earlier this year, when he refused to attend office after the Vijay Rupani government was sworn in after the Assembly election.

Meghdoot Sharon | CNN-News18

Updated:June 3, 2018, 11:40 AM IST
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As Nitin Patel Fights Off Rumours of Anti-Party Activities, Differences in Gujarat BJP Come to Fore
A file photo of Gujarat deputy chief minister Nitin Patel. (Twitter: @Nitinbhai_Patel)
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Ahmedabad: With Lok Sabha elections just a year away, a flurry of messages on various social media platforms last month hinting that senior Gujarat BJP leader and Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel was engineering a revolt within the Gujarat BJP has caused a stir.

While Patel has categorically stated that an attempt was being made to damage his credibility, there is a growing feeling among political observers that it was the beginning of an exercise to cut Nitin Patel to size, as the high command was angered at the way he had acted after the Gujarat Assembly elections.

After speculations of his impending revolt started gaining momentum, Nitin Patel approached the media earlier this week and clarified that vested interests were out to tarnish his image and credibility by spreading rumours that he has been holding parleys with disgruntled BJP leaders and that close to 20 MLAs had assured their support to him.

“For the past few days, posts about me have been making rounds on social media. These are being done by vested interests to tarnish my image and damage my credibility. I am appealing to all my supporters and party workers not to believe in these malicious rumours. At the same time, I am contemplating filing a criminal case with the police if these rumours continue,” Nitin Patel told the media earlier this week.

Quick to retweet the Twitter post by Nitin Patel, state BJP president Jitu Vaghani said, “Attempts are being made by people to spread false news about Nitinbhai Patel in the media. The BJP sees through such designs of those vested interests. Nitinbhai is a senior leader of the party and has been constantly striving to work for the welfare of the people in his capacity as the deputy chief minister. All the BJP MLAs are also steadfastly with the party. Even the national leadership of the BJP has been deliberately dragged into the matter. This is condemnable and the BJP will not tolerate such acts.”

Then, within a few days, the BJP appointed an 11-member committee to oversee preparations for the 2019 general elections and named Nitin Patel prominently in that committee. The committee has been entrusted with the task of screening and finalising candidates for the 26 Lok Sabha seats of Gujarat. Quite clearly, the BJP appears keen to keep Nitin Patel in good humour, at least till the Lok Sabha elections are over.

There is no doubt that Nitin Patel did antagonise the party leadership to some extent earlier this year, when he refused to attend office after the Vijay Rupani government was sworn in after the Assembly election. Saurabh Patel was named finance minister, while Nitin Patel held that portfolio prior to the elections. A sulking Patel was then handed back the finance portfolio which was now with Saurabh Patel.

One theory being discussed in political circles is that the rumours may have been floated by a section of the Gujarat BJP adversarial to Nitin Patel.

After the controversy, Nitin Patel was forced to clarify on the so-called “anti-party activities” and hence it puts him at a disadvantage at the party organisation level. It also drastically erodes the Patidar strongman’s stature within the BJP as the cadre would wonder whether Patel is now striving for the post of the chief minister even as the party gave in to all his demands after the election.

Senior journalist and political commentator Hari Desai, who has followed Gujarat and national politics for several decades, believes Nitin Patel’s future is not very bright in the BJP.

“The BJP is known for not tolerating defiance in any form. Stalwarts of the Jan Sangh like Balraj Madhok were also thrown out in the past. Advani’s case is more recent. I believe Nitin Patel’s tantrums were acceded to after the Assembly elections because the BJP itself was precariously placed. But in the long run, the BJP is not likely to tolerate him and sooner or later, he will be cut to size,” Desai told News18.
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