Anandiben Patel’s exit may force other BJP chief ministers to step up

  • Kumar Uttam, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Aug 02, 2016 12:11 IST
Anandiben Patel takes as the Gujarat chief minister during a swearing-in ceremony at Gandhinagar in Gujarat. (REUTERS File)

The resignation offer of Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel has brought the spotlight back on other Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled states where the leadership is dealing with controversies.

The Monday resignation of Patel shows that Prime Minister Narendra Modi spent two years consolidating his gains at the Centre, but he might be now ready to give a hard look at the performance of BJP chief ministers with the aim to win back the states.

Patel said in a Facebook post that she told the BJP leadership about her plan to step down two months ago. She said the party needed a fresh face before next year’s state elections.

Read: Modi responsible for Gujarat’s woes, Anandiben a scapegoat: Rahul Gandhi

Her possible removal is significant given that she was Modi’s choice as his replacement as the Gujarat chief minister. Many other BJP chief ministers have courted controversies, but Patel is the first one to step down.

The Monday development should give jitters to those about whom the party and Modi seem to have some concerns.

The first of them could be Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh, who recently broke Modi’s record of being the longest-serving chief minister of the party. Singh took over as chief minister in December 2003.

He has won three elections, but his tenure has not been without controversies, the latest being Congress’ allegation about the overseas investment of his son.

The opposition party has attacked Singh over a number of irregularities including that in the supply of rice in the Rs 36,000 crore Public Distribution System (PDS) or the Nagrik Apurti scam in the state.

In May this year, Swaraj Abhiyan leaders Prashant Bhushan and Yogendra Yadav claimed irregularities in the purchase of an A-109 chopper in 2007 by the Chhattisgarh government and demanded a probe against Singh.

Singh has denied all charges.

The party has stood behind Singh through troubled times, but there have been concerns about signs of Congress’ revival in the tribal state.

The difference between the vote share of the BJP and the Congress party in Chhattisgarh in the 2013 poll was less than 1% and Singh will fight and anti-incumbency of 15 years when the state goes to poll in 2018.

Read: Politically incorrect Anandiben had bumpy two years at the helm in Gujarat

Haryana, where the BJP came to power for the first time, is another state that has seen CM Manohar Lal Khattar grappling with controversies ever since he assumed power in 2014.

Khattar managed to survive an agitation of Jats for reservation, but the party remains concerned about the state of the affair in Haryana.

The massive traffic jam triggered by waterlogging after heavy rains in Gurgaon last week added to Khattar’s problem with residents, commuters and opposition leaders blaming his government for the chock-a-block situation.

Haryana’s main opposition party, the Indian National Lok Dal (INLD), accused the BJP of only believing in “hollow slogans” without taking any concrete steps to tackle basic things. The Congress party too attacked Khattar, saying things cannot be improved just by changing the name of a city but by improving its infrastructure.

“A leadership change in both the state may be ruled out immediately, but the chief ministers will have to make strides to keep pace with Modi’s expectations,” a BJP leader said.

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