First-term MLA Bhupendra Patel was on Monday sworn in as Gujarat chief minister, two days after Vijay Rupani's surprise exit from the post, a year ahead of the Assembly polls.
Patel (59), unanimously elected BJP legislature party leader on Sunday, was sworn in as the state's 17th chief minister by Governor Acharya Devvrat at a simple ceremony in Ahmedanad. Union Home Minister Amit Shah and chief ministers of some BJP-ruled states were among those present at the Raj Bhavan ceremony.
As decided by the party, only Patel took the oath. The council of ministers will take oath during the next few days after their names are finalised, BJP sources told PTI.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP national president JP Nadda were among the first to congratulate Bhupendra on his latest assignment.
Congratulations to Bhupendra Bhai on taking oath as CM of Gujarat. I have known him for years and have seen his exemplary work, be it in the BJP Organisation or in civic administration and community service. He will certainly enrich Gujarat’s growth trajectory. @Bhupendrapbjp
— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) September 13, 2021
मैं @Bhupendrapbjp जी को गुजरात के मुख्यमंत्री पद की शपथ लेने पर हार्दिक बधाई देता हूँ।
मुझे पूर्ण विश्वास है कि आदरणीय प्रधानमंत्री श्री @narendramodi जी के मार्गदर्शन और आपके नेतृत्व में गुजरात की सतत विकास यात्रा की गति और तेज होगी।
— Jagat Prakash Nadda (@JPNadda) September 13, 2021
At Sunday's legislature party meeting, the proposal to elect Patel the legislative party leader was moved by Vijay Rupani, whose resignation as chief minister on Saturday, 15 months ahead of the Assembly polls, surprised many political observers.
Rupani, the fourth chief minister to demit office in BJP-ruled states during the coronavirus pandemic, was sworn in as chief minister his second stint as chief minister - in December 2017 and completed five years in office on August 7 this year.
With state Assembly polls scheduled in December 2022, the BJP is banking on Patel, a Patidar, for poll victory. In the 2017 Assembly elections, BJP won 99 of the 182 seats and Congress got 77.
Soft-spoken first-time MLA trumped many veterans in waiting to get CM post
Born in Ahmedabad, Patel is an MLA from the Ghatlodia seat, previously held by former chief minister and now Uttar Pradesh Governor Anandiben Patel. He won the seat by over 1.17 lakh votes in 2017, the highest margin in that poll. Ghatlodia is part of the Gandhinagar Lok Sabha constituency represented by Shah.
He holds many firsts to his name when his latest assignment is added to the mix. The first Ahmedabadi chief minister of Gujarat, Patel is also a first-time MLA, first-time minister and first Kadva Patel to take the chief minister's chair.
Patel, who holds a diploma in civil engineering, has served as Ahmedabad municipal councillor and as the chairperson of the Standing Committee of Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation and Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority. He is also a trustee at Patidar organisation Vishwa Umiya Foundation.
Patel has never held a ministerial post, just like Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was never a minister when he became Gujarat chief minister 20 years ago. Modi was sworn in as CM on October 7, 2001, and became an MLA on 24 February, 2002, by winning the Rajkot seat bypoll.
His Assembly constituency is part of the Gandhinagar Lok Sabha seat represented by Shah.
The BJP's CM choice came as a surprise for many as the low-profile, first-time legislator was not seen to be among the top contenders for the post.
Gujarat BJP chief CR Paatil said Patel's work at the grass-root level, his hold on the cooperative sector, association with party workers and administrative abilities were among the factors that led to his elevation.
Why BJP choosing Kadva-Patidar leader as CM over Jain Vijay Rupani makes political sense
The Patidars are a dominant caste in Gujarat with a sizeable control over the electoral votes and dominate the political economy with a stronghold over education, realty and cooperative sectors.
Patel's elevation - he is the first from the Patidar sub-group to be chief minister - is key to BJP's plans to woo the Kadva Patidar community, which some political observers feel, has drifted away from the party. He is a trustee of Sardardham, the Patidar community organisation that hosted the programme where Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the chief guest on Saturday.
Furthermore, the community with both subgroups combined is an important vote bank in the state of Gujarat, accounting for 12-14 percent of the population and they hold sway in more than 70 out of 182 assembly constituencies. They cost BJP a massive chunk of their vote share in 2017 state polls after a people-led movement demanding reservation turned political and massively anti-BJP. The party had secured nearly 60 percent votes in the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. In 2017, the BJP got close to 49.1 percent of votes.
The BJP has been struggling to consolidate its once rock-solid Patidar voter base, which began eroding after the 2015 Patidar reservation stir. It settled for a novel power-sharing formula by making Nitin Patel the deputy chief minister while handing over reins to Vijay Rupani, a Jain. But as the poll season neared, the Patidar community leaders made it clear that this token measure will not suffice if the party wants their support.
In June this year, leaders of both Kadva and Leuva Patidar communities, who often do not mingle in terms of marital and social bonds, decided to set aside their differences and unite to exert their weight in the political arena.
"We want our Patidar brothers in political parties to be given main responsibilities in Gujarat. Be it the BJP or Congress, Patidars should get top posts. Why shouldn't the next state unit Congress chief be from our community?" Naresh Patel, chairman of Khodaldham Trust, who spearheaded the efforts to bring the two sub-castes of the community together, told reporters in June. In the same vein, he said the community is of the view that the next chief minister should be a Patidar.
Then chief minister Rupani was from the minority Jain community which forms just two percent of the total population in Gujarat. Incumbent state BJP president CR Paatil is from the Marathi community settled in south Gujarat. Add these facts together and it becomes clear that Rupani's exit had more reasons than meets the eye.
One final pat on the back for Rupani from BJP top brass
In a final nod to Vijay Rupani, the fourth chief minister to demit office in BJP-ruled states during the coronavirus pandemic, Prime Minister Modi praised his policies as pro-people. Nadda lauded the former chief minister for taking forward the legacy left behind by Modi, who exited the state to take over prime ministerial responsibilities.
This comes amid numerous theories in the media speculating the cause behind Rupani's sudden exit.
A report in India Today said that other than the handling of the Covid-19 pandemic by the Vijay Rupani-led Gujarat government, the economic and social distress that followed might have also contributed to his “downfall”.
Another source said that Rupani's leadership quality was also under the scanner as the BJP had failed to cross the 100-mark with him at the helm in the 2017 assembly polls. Another reason cited in reports was the alleged lack of coordination between him and BJP Gujarat president Paatil.
Rupani was sworn in as chief minister -- his second stint as CM - in December 2017. He completed five years in office on August 7 this year.
With inputs from PTI