At the receiving end of a festering quota agitation from members of her own community, Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel appears to be on a sticky wicket as the Bharatiya Janata Party considers replacing her ahead of next year’s assembly elections.
While the move appears largely prompted by Anandiben’s inability to defuse the vote bank-threatening Patel agitation that began last July, the state’s first woman CM started hitting the wrong notes soon after taking over from Narendra Modi who left a more than 13-year-long stint to become the Prime Minister two years ago.
The deliberations follow meetings on Monday between party president Amit Shah and Om Mathur, national vice-president, who prepared a report on the loss in civic elections last year.
“Much will depend on the result of the Talala by-election and the outcome of assembly election in four states and one union territory. In case the BJP does not perform up to the expectation, there will be big changes in states, party and the central government,” a BJP office bearer said, adding that the PM was yet to make up his mind over the change in Gujarat.
The result of the Talala by-election will be out along with that of the assembly elections on May 19.
Anandiben’s appointment was seen as a masterstroke by Modi but her style of functioning soon had her at odds with the bureaucrats close to him. Soon after, the raucous quota agitation led by Hardik Patel put her further in the dock.
Alarm bells finally started ringing in BJP when the party lost ground to the Congress in rural pockets in last year’s civic polls and barely managed to retain municipal corporations.
A report prepared by Mathur also suggested corrective measures be taken ahead of assembly polls.
Hardik is behind bars fighting sedition charges. BJP leaders believe the agitation is fizzling out but a wrong move can revive it to the party’s disadvantage.
Patels account for about 18% of Gujarat’s population and have traditionally voted for the BJP.
The BJP is now looking for someone who can handle the volatile situation, deal with agitating Patels politically, and ensure better coordination between the state government and the organisation locally. The turf war between Anandiben and Shah is obvious and there is an element of distrust between them, party leaders said.