Silent troubleshooter Bhupendra Patel helps his party buck anti-incumbency - Hindustan Times
close_game
close_game

Silent troubleshooter Bhupendra Patel helps his party buck anti-incumbency

Dec 09, 2022 08:31 AM IST

Bhupendra Patel’s impressive election victory, winning by a record 212,480 votes, added to his achievements – a feat that found mention in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech

When 60-year-old Bhupendra Patel was handpicked to replace Vijay Rupani as chief minister of Gujarat in September 2021, most people outside the state had not heard much about the one-time legislator. Even Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) insiders knew of him only as a close associate of former CM Anandiben Patel. When she was removed after the 2016 Patidar quota agitation, she chose the unassuming man to replace her in her pocket borough of Ghatlodia in Ahmedabad.

Gujarat chief minister Bhupendra Patel at the BJP office in Ahmedabad on Thursday after the party’s stupendous victory in the assembly elections. (ANI Photo)
Gujarat chief minister Bhupendra Patel at the BJP office in Ahmedabad on Thursday after the party’s stupendous victory in the assembly elections. (ANI Photo)

A year later, against the backdrop of the BJP’s stupendous electoral victory – the largest in the state in terms of seats – Patel is set to retain his chief ministership after becoming the face of the BJP’s successful efforts to blunt anti-incumbency, efforts that saw the party replace its entire council of ministers, and convince a generation of leaders to retire ahead of the polls.

His own impressive election victory, winning by a record 212,480 votes, added to his achievements – a feat that found mention in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s speech.

“I had said during the campaign that Narendra Modi’s record has to be broken, that Bhupendra will break Narendra’s record, and for that Narendra will work with all his heart and soul,” said the Prime Minister in Delhi. “Today, Bhupendra-bhai Patel won his seat by over 2 lakh votes; that is phenomenal, to win an assembly seat by two lakh votes is something that does not even happen to most in Lok Sabha seats.”

Party insiders and experts said Patel’s low-key working style and ability to take everyone along helped in the BJP’s efforts to shed anti-incumbency ahead of the state polls, and allow a fresh team of lawmakers to face the electorate in the December elections.

“He looks very simple, but his decision-making power is extraordinary,” said Mukesh Dixit, a BJP functionary. “In just one year, he solved a lot of problems…without any publicity,” he added, citing the example of how he resolved several hiccups faced by builders, and issues with ground-level implementation of the PM-AWAS Yojana.

Also Read:Assembly election: What swung the vote in Gujarat

The BJP also made it clear that it was continuing to repose its trust on Patel. “Bhupendra Patel will continue as the state chief minister and his oath-taking ceremony will take place on December 12,” state unit chief CR Paatil said.

The changes made by the BJP last year ensured that the governance gaps during the second wave of Covid-19 and simmering local discontent were neutralised. Moreover, Patel’s functioning style didn’t spark any new controversies for the party even as the central leadership worked overtime to limit dissidence.

Several top BJP leaders in the state publicly declared before the announcement of tickets that they were not in the race. People such as former CM Rupani and deputy CM Nitin Patel gave statements to say that they were opting out of the election and the party commended them for making way for the younger generation.

“Many of them got personal calls from the top leadership, including PM Modi, asking them to make way for newer candidates. This left no option for the veterans to accept and there was no question of rebelling or propping up independents,” said a party functionary aware of developments.

The decision was conveyed, according to this person aware of details, just days before the BJP list was made public. “If the same strategy was adopted in Himachal Pradesh, then we wouldn’t have seen 22 rebels in the race there,” said the leader cited above, requesting anonymity.

The move to change the entire council of ministers, considered drastic at the time, was a carefully thought-out project by the central leadership that deemed these changes necessary to rid the party of 24 years of anti-incumbency. “What’s most important for the BJP is what’s needed to win,’’ said Dr Harshad Patel, vice-chancellor of Indian Institute of Teacher Education, who has also served in the state government. “It means that they are not held back by who has served for a long time or who is a very powerful leader. They do what’s needed to be done.”

In victory, Patel chose to look ahead and credited the central leadership. “The people of Gujarat have once again reposed faith in Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the BJP leadership. If the masses of Gujarat have elected the BJP, then we have to live up to their expectations,” he said.

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Share this article
SHARE
Story Saved
Live Score
OPEN APP
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Thursday, July 18, 2024
Start 14 Days Free Trial Subscribe Now
Follow Us On