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Bhupendra Patel, BJP’s surprise choice for Gujarat CM

Bhupendra Patel reacts after he was elected as the new leader of BJP Legislature Party, during a meeting at the BJP headquarters in Gandhinagar on September 12, 2021.   | Photo Credit: AP

When Vijay Rupani headed to the Raj Bhavan to submit his resignation as Chief Minister at the instruction of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) high command on Saturday, many party leaders and workers, and media persons, began speculating immediately on the names that could be the next Chief Minister. Animated discussions here have mainly centred around outgoing Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya, and the Administrator of the Union Territories of Daman and Diu and Lakshdweep Praful Patel, and others.

59-year-old first time legislator Bhupendra Patel never figured in any of this speculation, including by the top BJP leadership in Gujarat. Even the otherwise always well-informed top corporates in the State were in the dark till Mr. Patel’s name was announced in a meeting at the BJP’s headquarters in Gandhinagar.

Before he became a legislator from the Ghatlodia seat in 2017, which earlier was held by former CM and now Uttar Pradesh Governor Anandiben Patel, “Bhupendrabhai” held the important positions of chairman of the Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority, and chairman of various committees of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, including its top decision-making Standing Committee. Yet he always remained a low profile party worker who preferred to work silently.

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It’s possible that his low profile and Ms. Anandiben’s trust earned him the coveted position of the Chief Minister of the home State of both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah. Always soft-spoken and mild-mannered, Mr. Bhupendra Patel is a party leader who prefers not to be a part of either the limelight or controversy.

“When Anandiben was Chief Minister, he was the chairman of the very powerful urban development authority, and had the direct trust of and access to the CM, but he never bragged about it,” a prominent realty player in Ahmedabad said. A builder by profession, Mr. Bhupendra Patel has been able to keep his image and name clean of any controversy. “His name was not dragged in any land deal or any realty project in the city, even when he was holding important positions in the relevant authorities,” a BJP leader from Ahmedabad city said.

 

His surprise selection as the Gujarat Chief Minister 15 months ahead of the crucial Assembly polls in 2022 suggests that the party’s top leadership has reposed its faith in his untested abilities as a State-level leader.

The party seems to have banked upon two factors in catapulting him to the CM’s chair — first, he is a Patidar leader and has strong associations with the community’s social service outfits in Ahmedabad, and secondly; and as a builder with long experience in civic and urban management, he can ensure cities like Ahmedabad, Surat, Rajkot and Vadodara remain BJP bastions in the coming polls.

“Instead of selecting a rural face like R.C. Faldu or even Praful Patel, the party leadership has gone with Bhupendrabhai, who is an urban face, the first leader from Ahmedabad city who has been made the CM,” a party leader said, adding, “It suggests that the main focus of the party will be on urban cities in the elections.”

This is probably to counter the Aam Aadmi Party’s efforts to gain a foothold in Gujarat’s cities, where the BJP enjoys one-sided dominance electorally even as the Congress remains confined to a few pockets dominated by Dalits and minorities.


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Printable version | Sep 20, 2021 3:02:49 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/bhupendra-patel-bjps-surprise-choice-for-gujarat-cm/article36421064.ece

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