The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) seems to be in for a complete overhaul in Gujarat ahead of the 2022 state polls. After a surprise move to pick Bhupendra Patel as chief minister, the party has decided to give the leader a fresh new cabinet based on the “no repeat” theory.
News18 has exclusively accessed the list of ministers who will take oath as part of Patel’s cabinet on Thursday and so far, none of the names from the Vijay Rupani team have been repeated. However, a few more names are likely to be added to the team.
The new ministers expected to take oath are Gandevi MLA Naresh Patel (Tribal), Pardi MLA Kanubhai Desai, Visnagar MLA Hrishikesh Patel, Dhari MLA J. V. Kakdiya, Kaprada MLA Jitu Chaudhary, Nikol MLA Jagdish Panchal, Arvind Raiyani from Rajkot, Majura MLA Harsh Sanghvi, Jamnagar MLA Raghavji Patel, Olpad MLA Mukesh Patel, Morwa Hadaf MLA Nimisha Suthar, Bharuch MLA Dushyant Patel, Prantij MLA Gajendra Parmar, Morbi MLA Brijesh Merja, Asarva MLA Pradeep Parmar, Keshod MLA Deva Malam, Pakanj Desai will remain as Dandak (chief whip), Limbdi MLA Kiritsinh Rana, Mahemdavad MLA Arjun Sinh Chauhan, Santrampur MLA Kuber Dindor and Mahuva MLA R. C. Makwana.
After the BJP picked Patel to head the state in an unexpected move, his cabinet was scheduled to take oath on Wednesday. However, sources indicated that the decision of the top brass to replace almost 70 per cent of the new council has led to discontent and anger among sitting ministers who were reportedly informed about the axing over a call.
Sources said hectic parleys ensued as all 23 ministers of the Rupani cabinet were asked to make way for younger faces. Posters at Raj Bhavan, which mentioned the day of swearing-in as Wednesday, were taken off in the afternoon as the top brass tried to allay tempers.
Several media outlets reported that residences of state BJP president CR Paatil, Rupani and other senior leaders were the hub of activity as the incumbents expressed their displeasure and the high command looked to stem dissent, especially in the run-up to the 2022 elections.
There were also murmurs that the “no repeat” theory would upset caste equations in the state. Not just ministers, Rupani too was said to be upset about the move, which he felt would send a wrong message.
RUPANI OUT, PATEL IN — WHY THE SWITCH?
Rupani had turned 65 last month and according to sources are to be believed, the party was not so confident of facing the next elections in Gujarat under his leadership. Rupani in his resignation speech spoke of “Nayi Urja and Naya Utsaah" as the reason for choosing a new Chief Minister.
Sources had earlier told CNN-News18 that a member of the Patel community was likely to be the new CM for the state. The BJP, under Rupani, is also said to have been facing the heat over the management of the Covid situation and the party was sensing some anger in the urban areas. Incidentally, Rupani was also chosen as the CM in similar fashion 15 months before the 2017 assembly elections in the state, replacing Anandiben Patel.
Patel’s choice as the CM, however, makes potent political sense. Besides being a Patidar — the community the BJP wants to be by its side in the next elections — Patel is also a Kadva Patel. He is, in fact, the first Kadva Patel to become the chief minister of the state. This community is dominant in North Gujarat and Saurashtra, and opens a new political narrative for the BJP ahead of the next polls.
A first-time MLA, Patel secured the assembly seat of Ghatlodia, which was once represented by Uttar Pradesh Governor Anandiben Patel, in the 2017 state election by a huge margin, polling 72% of the total votes. A trusted lieutenant of Amit Shah, Patel’s assembly segment also happens to be a part of Shah’s parliamentary constituency, Gandhinagar. He has never held a ministerial post just like Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he became Gujarat CM 20 years ago.