Leader of the powerful Patidar community with experience in construction and urban management, the former MP will lead the BJP in the 2022 elections to the Legislative Assembly of Gujarat.
It was around 10:30 p.m. on September 10 when Vijay Rupani, then Chief Minister of Gujarat, received a call from the powerful national secretary general of the party, BL Santosh, informing him of the high command’s desire to effect a change of guard in the state. The next morning, Mr. Santosh and the head of the Gujarat BJP, Bhupender Yadav, landed in Ahmedabad to set the stage for the change.
The next day, Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressed an event by video conference to inaugurate the Patidar Community Social Services Campus on the outskirts of Ahmedabad. Chief Minister Rupani and senior leaders of the state’s Patidar community, including Union ministers Mansukh Mandavia and Parshottam Rupala, were present in person.
From the end of the Prime Minister’s speech in which he spoke about human values ââthat provide a permanent solution to the threat of terrorism and tragedies like the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States, Mr. Rupani visited the Raj Bhawan to Gandhinagar to hand over his resignation to governor, ending his five-year term as chief minister.
Mr Rupani was installed as CM in 2016 in a dramatic fashion when then BJP chief Amit Shah, currently Union Home Minister, put his weight behind him. After Mr Rupani resigned, state BJP leader CR Paatil announced that the party’s legislative wing would meet the next day to select a new CM.
“The successor would be announced tomorrow, but I am not in the race,” said Mr. Paatil, who has become a center of power in BJP state politics since he was appointed party leader in 2020, said in a statement.
On September 12, at the party headquarters that looks more like a farm than a political center, heads of state and central observers, NS Tomar and Prahlad Joshi, chaired the party’s legislative meeting at which all lawmakers and parliamentarians were present.
At the meeting, Mr. Rupani was asked to name his successor from a sealed envelope given to him by the observers.
High command decision
When Mr Rupani announced that the party’s high command had decided to choose Bhupendra Patel as leader of the BJP legislative party, the lawmaker for the first time was seated sixth or seventh in the conference hall. After his name was announced, he was asked to come to the platform, where the main leaders were seated.
The buzz in political circles is that, as Mr. Patel was traveling to Gandhinagar to attend the party meeting, he received a call asking if he would be the next CM. Not knowing what was to come, ‘Bhupendrabhai’ apparently started to laugh on the phone.
Before his name was announced, the main political identity of Patel, 59, was that he was the MP for Ghatlodia, a seat previously held by Anandiben Patel, the former chief minister, who is now the governor of the ‘Uttar Pradesh. Mr. Patel is a known protege of Ms. Anandiben, commonly referred to as Ben in political circles in the state. It was Ms Anandiben who secured a place for Mr Patel in the 2017 Assembly ballots, while she was a sitting legislator.
Born July 15, 1962, Mr. Patel studied in Ahmedabad. It has long been associated with RSS. Gentle mannered and soft-spoken, Mr. Patel has never had ministerial experience or held a key position in the organization of the State party.
Before running for the Assembly, his career was largely limited to the city of Ahmedabad. He was the head of Memnagar Municipality, a locality in western Ahmedabad which was later merged with the municipality when the civic body’s boundaries were widened in 2007-08. He later became a city councilor and was appointed chairman of the standing committee, the main decision-making body of the Ahmedabad municipal society in 2010-15, when Ms. Anandiben was a minister in the Modi administration.
In 2015, he was appointed chairman of the Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority (AUDA), a powerful body responsible for overseeing and sanctioning construction work in the city’s suburbs, when Ms Anandiben was the CM.
A builder by profession, Mr. Patel has kept a low profile within the party and has stayed away from controversy, qualities that political analysts say may have helped him gain the attention of the high command. of the BJP. âHe’s low-key, but has a good understanding of the state.
It is also on display at both AMC and AUDA in Ahmedabad, which is the commercial capital of the state, âsaid Narhari Amin, BJP member Rajya Sabha, who previously served as a congressman on the CM. in the 1990s in the government of Chimanbhai Patel.
He is a disciple of the Akram Vignan movement, a local spiritual stream founded by an Ambalal Patel known as Dada Bhagwan. Mr Patel’s anointing suggests that the party leadership wanted a face of Patidar before the assembly elections, but someone without any independent political base. The party seems to have banked on two factors to catapult him into the CM chair: first, he is a leader of Patidar and has a strong association with community social services in Ahmedabad and second, he is a builder by profession and has a long experience in civic and urban management so that he can ensure that major cities such as Ahmedabad, Surat, Rajkot, Vadodara and others remain strongholds of the BJP in future polls, according to analysts and BJP insiders. âIn Bhupendrabhai, the party found a popular leader from within the party cadre and its base in the state,â said Yamal Vyas, spokesperson for Gujarat BJP. According to him, Patel is an uncontroversial figure whose development work in the civic body AMC and AUDA is well known among party cadres.
The Patidars, who make up around 15% of the state’s population, exert enormous influence over the economy through their control over lucrative sectors such as private education, rural and urban cooperative banks, and dairies.
Nitin Patel, who was chief deputy minister of the Rupani government, also found Bhupendra Patel a “good” choice. âHe’s a good leader. He is my neighbor. We work together and have known each other for decades, âsaid Nitin Patel, a party veteran who was seen by many as a potential successor to Mr. Rupani.
On September 16, the government of Mr. Patel was sworn in to Governor Acharya Devvrat. What surprised many was that no minister who served in the former Rupani administration found a place in the new government. Out of a total of 25 members, including the chief minister, only a handful have previous ministerial experience, including Rajendra Trivedi, who was a minister in the Anandiben government, Kiritsinh Rana, who served in the Narendra Modi government, and Raghavji Patel, who had served in Shankarsinh Vaghela’s government in the mid-1990s.
The message that the central leadership of the BJP wants to send is clear. They want the government of Gujarat to start over and face the elections as a new team. Bhupendra Patel would lead them forward.