GANDHINAGAR: Less than four years into his first term as an MLA and with little over a year to go for assembly elections, Patidar MLA Bhupendra Patel on Monday took the oath of office as Gujarat’s 17th chief minister, watched by Union home minister Amit Shah and the CMs of four BJP-governed states.
Shah was the first to congratulate Patel after he was sworn in by governor Acharya Devvrat at a Raj Bhavan ceremony whose underlying theme seemed to be BJP bonhomie, bolstered by the presence of ex-CM Vijay Rupani and his former deputy Nitin Patel. The star-spangled saffron guest list included CMs Manohar Lal Khattar of Haryana, Shivraj Singh Chouhan of MP, Goa’s Pramod Sawant and Karnataka’s Basavaraj Bommai.
As the surprise of Patel’s selection subsided, the focus -shifted to who will be included in the council of ministers that is expected to be sworn in after a few days.
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Shah held a series of meetings with the new CM, state BJP president CR Paatil and other senior BJP functionaries to finalise the names.
While congratulating Patel, PM Modi applauded his predecessor for leaving his stamp on Gujarat. “I have known him (Patel) for years and have seen his exemplary work, be it in BJP or in civic administration and community service. He will certainly enrich Gujarat’s growth trajectory. During his five years as CM, Vijay Rupani ji has undertaken many people-friendly measures. He worked tirelessly for all sections of society. I am certain he will continue to contribute to public service,” he said.
Before the swearing-in, Patel had met Rupani at the latter’s official residence in Gandhinagar. He also met ex-deputy CM at his residence in Ahmedabad.
Patel’s first task after taking over as CM was to review the flood-like situation in some parts of the Saurashtra region following extremely heavy rainfall. He instructed officials to airlift stranded people in Jamnagar district, a release said.
With assembly polls due in December 2022, BJP is banking on Patel for consolidation. In the 2017 Assembly elections, BJP won 99 of the 182 seats and Congress got 77.
The Patidars are a dominant caste in Gujarat with a strong presence in the education, realty and cooperative sectors. Patel himself is a trustee of influential socio-religious Patidar organisations like Sardar Dham and Vishwa Umiya Foundation, among others.
Born in Ahmedabad, Patel represents the Ghatlodia seat, previously held by former chief minister and now UP 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 the Union home minister. Patel edged out a number of potential contenders to become Rupani’s successor.