Bhupendra Patel after being elected the leader of the BJP's legislature party in Gujarat | Photo: Hanif Sindhi | By special arrangement
Bhupendra Patel after being elected the leader of the BJP's legislature party in Gujarat | Photo: Hanif Sindhi | By special arrangement
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Ahmedabad: The man who will take over from Vijay Rupani as the chief minister of Gujarat is 59-year-old Bhupendra Patel, an engineer, builder and ardent follower of the spiritual guru Dada Bhagwan, founder of the Akram Vignan movement, a purification movement like what is practised in Jainism.

Patel was a frequent visitor to the Dada Bhagwan Mandir in Ahmedabad every time there was a congregration, and even when he went to meet Governor Acharya Devvrat as the newly elected leader of the BJP legislature party, he stopped by at the late guru’s ‘Trimandir’ to seek blessings.

BJP leaders and others who have worked with him say one of the reasons he has been selected as the new CM is his humility and ability to work with everyone without scruples of ego, just like his guru, Dada Bhagwan.

Also read: New Gujarat CM Bhupendra Patel is BJP’s olive branch to Patidars, Anandiben Patel convinced PM

Long-standing relationship with Modi

On Saturday, when the BJP high command asked Rupani to resign, Prime Minister Narendra Modi was attending a bhoomi pujan ceremony for Sardar Dham, a project to house 2,000 girl students. This project has been developed by the Patidar Trust, whose trustee is Bhupendra Patel.

Before he became an MLA, Patel had been a councillor, then chairman of the School Board and chairman of the Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority. He came into Modi’s good books when the latter was chief minister of Gujarat, and Patel took over as chairman of the standing committee of AUDA. He implemented Modi’s vision of development of Ahmedabad by constructing bridges, redeveloping and beautifying the city. The Ahmedabad Ring Road project to reduce congestion was one of the projects the AUDA executed under Patel’s chairmanship, which was appreciated by Modi.

Patel worked under Anandiben Patel’s guidance when she was CM, and once she was appointed governor, she recommended his name to fight from the Ghatlodiya seat she had held. Bhupendra Patel beat Congress’ Shaktikant Patel by over one lakh votes in the 2017 assembly polls.

In his address in Gujarati after being elected the leader, he first thanked PM Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah, but did not try to hide his closeness to Anandiben Patel, the former CM and current governor of Uttar Pradesh, whom he thanked repeatedly.

More recently, during the Covid-19 pandemic when the entire Rupani government was blamed for its mishandling of healthcare, Patel helped people by arranging oxygen cylinders and beds in hospital.

‘A politician with no enemies’

Ashok Patel, a BJP leader who worked with the new CM in the AUDA told ThePrint: “He is humble and easy to work with. (That’s why) every one helped him to reach this coveted post. His earlier work also went in his favour, since the party was looking to choose someone from the Patidar community.”

A close friend of the new CM, who did not want to be identified, said in Gujarat, “99 per cent politicians are businessmen first”, and Bhupendra Patel himself is a builder. “His family handles the construction business. But he is one man who has no enemies, unlike Nitin Patel and other big Patidar leaders,” the friend said.

Another friend and BJP leader Rajesh Patel said: “He is a political dark horse. Just like Modi, he never held any ministerial berth; he directly rose to the CM’s post.”

A third friend of the new CM, who wished to remain anonymous, said the PM chose Patel for optics, but that’s a big part of politics. “He is one of the trustees of the Vishwa Umiya Foundation — Umiya being the goddess of the Patel community in north Gujarat where the BJP suffered heavy losses in 2017. It may be optics, but optics play a role in politics. You need to appease caste groups like the BJP is doing in UP,” this friend said.

Unlike Keshubhai Patel, the former CM and giant Patel leader of the BJP, who was from the Leuva sub-caste, Bhupendra Patel is from the Kadva community with influence in north Gujarat.

Some leaders in the Gujarat BJP say it could be that PM Modi opted for Patel so that a next-generation Patidar leader like Mansukh Mandaviya can add to his profile and be ready to take the mantle in a year or two. The immediate need, they agree, was of a person who can perform in line with Delhi, and make conciliatory moves to the Patidar community.

However, one BJP leader presented a different take, which some others are agreeing with.

“Ultimately, Gujarat votes on the prime minister’s name and work. The PM and Amit Shah’s experience will make things smoother for Patel. They wanted a person who can work with every one and cool Patels’ sentiments. But his inexperience could cost the BJP dearly,” this leader warned.

(Edited by Shreyas Sharma)

Also read: Engineer to Karnataka CM — The rise of BSY loyalist & Lingayat leader Basavaraj Bommai


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