GAMEPLAN GUJARAT
India Today|September 27, 2021
The change of guard at the top had two primary objectives: winning over the Patidars and tackling disaffection in the BJP ranks. Can new chief minister Bhupendra Patel keep the BJP’s ranks together until the election in 2022?
KIRAN D. TARE

The mood at the Gujarat BJP headquarters ‘Kamalam’ in Gandhinagar was sombre on September 12, with party legislators gathered there to ‘elect’ their new leader after the sudden resignation of Chief Minister Vijay Rupani the day before. At around 4 pm, when central observer Narendra Tomar announced Bhupendra Patel as Rupani’s successor, everyone was scrambling to find the low-key legislator. BJP workers took almost five minutes to find Patel, who was sitting all by himself in a corner of the hall. When he reached the dais, Bhupendra was first greeted by Rupani. When Tomar asked him to say something to the legislators, the new CM was too overwhelmed to say much. He thanked everyone profusely and sat down.

The elevation of Bhupendra Patel, 59, a part-time RSS worker and a first-time MLA, to the top postmarks yet another shift in the functioning of the BJP in Gujarat. A former chairman of the Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority (AUDA), his fortunes changed after former Gujarat chief minister (2014-16) and current Uttar Pradesh governor Anandiben Patel picked him for a bigger role in politics. The engineer-turned-builder politician was chairman of the Thaltej municipal council till 2010 when the area was merged with the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC). In an unprecedented situation, after his maiden election to the AMC in 2010, he was made chairman of its standing committee.

His stain-free stint at the AMC fetched him the post of AUDA chairman in 2015. Two years later, Anandiben chose him as her successor from the Ghatlodia assembly constituency in Ahmedabad as she moved to Bhopal as governor of Madhya Pradesh. Bhupendra Patel won the seat by 117,000 votes, the highest victory margin in the 2017 state election.

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