New Delhi: The “sudden” move to replace the Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani, and his entire cabinet, had taken many by surprise, including those within the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).
The decision to oust Rupani, however, was not a hasty one but part of a long-drawn plan conceptualised in the BJP a few months ago, ThePrint has learnt.
Sources in the BJP said it was the implementation that took some time as the party wanted to avoid protests and ensure a smooth transition, especially given that the state is headed for crucial assembly elections next year.
According to sources, the move of replacing the entire Gujarat cabinet was also taken to send a message to a number of civil servants, who were close to a few of the ministers and were calling the shots. At the same time, the party wanted a young team that would be in sync with the state unit that also underwent changes under president C.R. Patil.
“A number of bureaucrats had become proxy ministers who were running the departments. So this change is also to send out a message that nothing is permanent and that they need to work efficiently and perform,” said a senior BJP leader.
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Anger among party cadre
Those aware of the developments told ThePrint that there was a lot of anger among the cadre with many getting demotivated as they felt those occupying positions of power would continue to call the shots, leaving no opportunity for them even in the future.
“Not only for the voters but for the workers too it had become too monotonous as we had the same set of ministers,” the leader added. “The decision to change the sitting ministers was taken as there was huge anti-incumbency against them and many workers had given feedback that they were not accessible. A need was felt to infuse fresh energy and create a team of the future.”
A second senior BJP leader said some of the ministers had been part of the cabinet for 20 years and had served in the Modi, Anandiben Patel, and two Rupani cabinets (from 2016 to 2021).
“Making a few changes here and there would not have served the purpose as the state needed a complete overhaul, just like a surgery to fix the things,” the leader said. “The central leadership wanted to send out a message not only to the voters but to the workers too that Gujarat is ready for the new generation.”
A third party leader said the changes are part of the BJP’s new strategy to focus on young leaders and groom them for the future.
“Right from Uttarakhand, Assam, we are focussing on young leaders. Every party needs to reflect and prepare for the future and Gujarat which has seen 26 years of continuous BJP rule needed this the most as things had become monotonous,” he added.
Caste equations taken into account
The BJP has replaced Rupani with Bhupendra Patel, a low-profile first-time MLA but one who is a Patidar.
Patidars, or Patels, are considered the most influential community both economically and politically in Gujarat. The community has a hold on 70 to 90 assembly seats out of the total 182.
Even the ministers who have found a place in the revamped team, a fourth leader said, have done so as the party is keeping in mind the 2022 assembly elections.
According to the leader, the caste balance has been maintained so that the BJP can reach out to specific vote-banks.
“Right from Patel, OBC, SC, ST, the cabinet has representation of women. Now workers are happy and feel that they can also get an opportunity in the future,” he said.
(Edited by Arun Prashanth)
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