In a surprise move, the BJP has nominated its Navsari MP CR Patil as its Gujarat state unit president. The appointment comes a week after the Congress nominated Patidar leader Hardik Patel as its state working president.
Appointment of Patil, who was born in Jalgaon in Maharashtra, is being read as a precursor to further changes in the state politics. With the Congress appointing both Working President and Leader of Opposition Paresh Danani from the Patel community, appointment of Patil, a close confidante of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is being seen as an indication of the BJP’s strategy ahead of the next state Assembly polls in 2022.
“I am very happy... It's a big responsibility... It's time to work and show not talk. 'Baat karne ka samay nahi kaam karne ka hai'”; Patil told News18.
Patil replaces Jeetu Vaghani, a Patel leader whose term had ended in August last year. While both top positions in the state Congress have now gone to the Patel community, both CM Vijay Rupani and state BJP president are from non-patidar caste.
To strike a balance between dominant caste groups, the BJP has generally opted for backward-Patel combination for CM and state president’s posts.
Patil’s proximity to Modi can be gauged from the fact that he coordinates governance-related matters in PM’s constituency Varanasi. He is also the chairman of the Lok Sabha standing committee on Housing.
Born in a middle-class family in Maharashtra, educated in Gujarat, Patil began his career as a policeman. He later joined the BJP and contested 2009 the Lok Sabha elections. One of the richest MPs, Patil speaks in multiple languages, including Gujarati and Marathi.
Patil won the 2019 elections from Navsari by 6.89 lakh votes, the highest margin in Gujarat.
In 2017, Patil, who has a dominant presence in South Gujarat, was able to secure 8 out of 12 Assembly seats from Surat and Navsari for the BP.
However, his biggest challenge would be to establish himself in other parts of the state outside districts bordering Maharashtra.