GANDHINAGAR: PM Narendra Modi sprang one of his biggest surprises when the soft-spoken, first-time MLA Bhupendra Patel was anointed as the successor of outgoing Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani on Sunday.
Following the script penned in New Delhi, Rupani proposed Bhupendra’s name, which was seconded by deputy chief minister Nitin Patel in the presence of central party observers.
Bhupendra, 59, a known aide of former Gujarat CM and Uttar Pradesh governor Anandiben Patel, edged out several top party leaders from the CM race. He will now lead the BJP into the crucial assembly polls scheduled in December 2022.
Bhupendra, who was Anandiben’s nominee from Ahmedabad’s Ghatlodia constituency after she vacated the seat in 2017, met governor Acharya Devvrat on Sunday evening to stake claim to form the government. He went to the governor after 111 BJP legislators elected him as their leader at the swanky Kamalam, the state BJP headquarters on the Ahmedabad-Gandhinagar highway. He will be sworn in on Monday — astrologers have suggested 2.20pm as the most auspicious moment for the ceremony. The CM-designate, who has a diploma in civil engineering, seems to have the blessings of Union home minister Amit Shah too.
While state BJP president C R Paatil said the new council of ministers will be announced in the next couple of days, a major reshuffle in the bureaucracy and police is also expected soon.
A real estate developer himself, Bhupendra has headed the Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority (AUDA) and helmed the standing committee of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, the largest urban local body in Gujarat.
Bhupendra is a Kadva Patel and his elevation is likely to help the BJP soothe the tempers of the powerful Patidar community, its loyal vote bank. The community has been somewhat estranged from BJP. That disaffection was reflected in the Aam Aadmi Party’s performance in the Surat Municipal Corporation elections held in February this year — the AAP won 27 seats, all in Patidar-dominated areas.
The CM-designate has been actively involved with socio-religious Patidar organisations. He has been a trustee of the Sardardham and the Vishva Umiya Foundation along with the Dada Bhagwan Foundation. The latter association is the reason why he is popularly known as ‘Dada’. Few know that Bhupendra is also a believer in Jainism, a community strongly aligned with BJP in Gujarat.
His elevation as the chief minister had the BJP’s trademark surprise element stamped all over it. The names of deputy CM Nitin Patel, state BJP president C R Paatil, Union health minister Mansukh Mandaviya, state agriculture minister R C Faldu and Lakshadweep administrator Praful Khoda Patel were doing the rounds as CM probables. Bhupendra’s name was not even casually discussed in the BJP circles.
Kamalam witnessed a flurry of activity on Sunday, as central observers, BJP national leaders and those from the state held a number of closed-door meetings before all leaders and MLAs held a final meeting in which Bhupendra’s name was announced as the next CM.
“Sauthi nana ma nano rahis, ane kaam karis (I will remain a common worker for the party). I thank the PM, Amit Shah, J P Nadda, C R Paatil, Vijay Rupani and other leaders. I always have the blessings of Anandiben Patel,” said Bhupendra.
Outgoing CM Vijay Rupani said: “The BJP is a party with a difference. Leadership is a means of service. I am sure Gujarat will touch new heights of growth under Bhupendra Patel’s leadership.”