Gujarat Deputy CM Nitin Patel Sets 3-Day Deadline for Vijay Rupani, Patidar Group Threatens Stir
Patel, who did not attend office on Friday, has been given the charge of Road and Building, Health, Medical Education, Narmada, Kalpsar and Capital Project.
File image of New elected Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and Deputy CM Nitin Patel. (Image: PTI)
Ahmedabad: Within three days of having been inducted into power, the Vijay Rupani government in Gujarat appears to have run into trouble. Deputy chief minister Nitin Patel does not seem to be happy with the portfolio allocation and is said to have conveyed his displeasure to the party high command. In fact, Nitin Patel is said to have threatened to quit as minister.
Soon after the deputy CM's ultimatum, patidar organisation Sardar Patel Group announced a bandh in Mehsana, the hometown of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, on Monday to put pressure on the state government.
Patel reportedly is miffed at being stripped off three key portfolios that he held in the outgoing government — Finance, Urban Development and Petroleum. When portfolios were allocated late on Thursday after a marathon cabinet meeting, the Finance portfolio was handed over to Saurabh Patel, while Rupani kept Urban Development and Petroleum for himself.
Signs that all is not well with the new government were evident on Friday, when a sulking Nitin Patel did not attend office. He met well-wishers at his home. Patel is also said to have called on senior party leader Anandiben Patel and expressed his displeasure, though no one from the party was willing to admit this.
Patel is said to have told Anandiben to convey his displeasure to the party high command and threatened to quit as minister if the three portfolios were not given back to him. Anandiben Patel is said to have advised him to be patient.
On Saturday, a delegation of Patidar leaders from Mehsana — Nitin Patel’s district — in North Gujarat met him at his house and extended their support to him.
Kirit Patel, a Patidar leader from Mehsana told the media after the meeting, “We are with Nitin Patel. Clearly, injustice has been done to him as he is the seniormost Patidar leader in the government.”
Purvin Patel, the leader of Sardar Patel Group, another Patidar organization, said, “The Patidar community is with Nitin Patel. The departments that he was in charge of have been snatched away from him. This amounts to injustice.”
The allocation of portfolios itself was clearly a difficult task for CM Vijay Rupani. With former finance minister Saurabh Patel back in the Cabinet, it was evident that Nitin Patel’s Finance portfolio would be allocated to him. However, sources say that snatching away of the Urban Development and Petroleum portfolios miffed Nitin Patel further.
Interestingly, Vijay Rupani, Nitin Patel and 18 other ministers were sworn in on the morning of December 26 and a Cabinet meeting to allocate portfolios was scheduled immediately after the swearing-in ceremony. However, it was put off indefinitely and portfolios of the new Cabinet were announced late on December 28.
“Nitin Patel continues to be the number two in the new government as the deputy chief minister. It is incorrect to say that he is not number two since finance portfolio was given to another minister,” Rupani said after the allocation of portfolios.
On Saturday, while inaugurating the annual flower show event at the Sabarmati riverfront, Rupani received a phone call while he was on stage. He stepped aside and took the call. Given the fact that Rupani interrupted his function and was on phone for 10 minutes, speculation was rife that he had received a call from someone very highly placed in the party over the Nitin Patel issue.
Quick to react to the rift, Patidar Ananmat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) Hardik Patel said he would meet Nitin Patel. “I have messaged him and sought time to meet him.”
Nitin Patel was a frontrunner to replace Anandiben Patel in 2016. His family also distributed sweets and posed for the camera before a last-minute change brought Rupani to power, with Patel as his deputy.
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