Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel offered to resign on Monday, a decision seen prompted by mounting pressure over her government’s handling of a string of political protests.
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.
“For the past some time there has been a tradition in the party that those who attain the age of 75, voluntarily retire from the post. I will attain the age of 75 in November,” said Patel.
“It (the age rule) is a good thing and it will give a chance to young leaders to come up.”
Patel, the first chief minister to quit over social media, is likely to be succeeded by transport minister and party state chief Vijay Rupani.
The chief minister has been under pressure since last year’s protests by the Patidars seeking quotas in colleges and jobs, and more recently, over the public beating of four Dalit men by self-styled cow protection groups.
Many accused her government of being out of touch with people’s aspirations, and blamed her leadership for the party’s dwindling support in both rural and urban Gujarat.
- AUGUST 2015, Patel agitation: Anandiben failed to efficiently handle the Patel agitation. This resulted in loss of lives and property, and a loss of face for the BJP. The agitation is likely to take away the BJP’s strongest and most loyal vote bank, the Patels, who constitute about 12-14% of the population.
- NOV 2015, Municipal poll debacle: Out of power for 20 years, the Congress made a comeback in the rural areas of Gujarat. Though the BJP retained its hold over urban pockets the poll outcome was a loud wake-up call for the party
- MARCH 2016, Charges of nepotism: Anandiben mired in controversy following allegations of her government favouring her daughter Anar’s business partners by giving 422 hectares of land at throwaway prices.
- JULY 2016, Flogging of Dalits in Una: Trouble deepened for Gujarat CM after four Dalit men were beaten up on suspicion of cow slaughter. Subsequent protests took a violent turn, igniting fresh worries within the BJP about its political fallout in next year November-December election.
The BJP’s vote share in panchayat polls dropped from 50.26% in 2010 to 43.97% last year. Its hold over semi-urban and urban civic bodies also weakened during the period, helping to revive a politically moribund Congress party in the state.
Patel’s downfall is also partly blamed on her frosty ties with BJP president Amit Shah, who is known to be close to Rupani, an old Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh hand.
Patel, Gujarat’s first woman chief minister, succeeded Narendra Modi in May, 2014. But her government’s handling of last year’s protests by Patidars, or Patels, drove a wedge between the BJP and one of its staunchest supporters. At least 11 people were killed in those demonstrations.
The fallout reflected in the BJP’s poor performance in panchayat and municipal elections, as Patels, who account for 14% of the state’s population, distanced themselves from the party.
Political analysts say Patel’s exit could help the BJP rebuild bridges with its core supporters including the Patidars.
In New Delhi, BJP president Amit Shah said: “Anandiben Patel has offered to resign. I will place her letter before Parliamentary Board which will take the final decision.”
The rise of Rupani, 60, has coincided with a series of setbacks for Patel, who is also accused of favouring the business partners of her daughter. She denies the charges.
In what was seen as Shah’s open support for Rupani, the latter was thrust forward to make an announcement for the state’s economically backward class (EBC) at a press conference in April, where Patel was also present.
A fortnight later, Rupani announced a government decision to accord minority status to Jains.
On both occasions, Patel chose to announce those decisions on social media.