Cracks in Gujarat’s new government as Deputy CM Nitin Patel sulks

Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and Deputy CM Nitin Patel along with Governor Om Prakash Kohli during the swearing-in ceremony at Gandhinagar, Ahmedabad on Tuesday.   | Photo Credit: PTI

Within days of its taking over, cracks have appeared in the new government in Gujarat as Deputy Chief Minister and prominent Patidar leader Nitin Patel is sulking over the issue of portfolio allocation which saw three powerful departments — finance, petrochemicals and urban development — being taken away from him.

Amidst speculation of his resignation, Mr. Patel, who is yet to resume charge, broke his silence. He said he was not after any post but only fighting for his prestige. He ruled out resigning from the party.

“This is about prestige, not post. The party high command has assured me it will resolve the issue,” Mr. Patel told media. “I have worked for 40 years for the party, so I will not resign from the BJP.”

However, there was no clarity yet on whether he would continue in the ministry even if the party high command did not concede to his demand for those portfolios.

Hardik calls on Nitin Patel to break away

Meanwhile, the Patidar community has rallied behind Mr. Patel, who has emerged as the main leader of the community after the Assembly polls.

“We want Nitinbhai to become the CM of the state,” said Lalji Patel, head of Sardar Patel Group (SPG), which had launched the Patidar quota agitation jointly with the Hardik Patel-led the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS).

Hardik has also asked the Deputy CM to join his agitation for justice. “BJP has again offered lollipop to Nitnbhai. If he is not happy with the party, he can break away from it with his supporters and we can talk to the Congress party to support Nitinbhai’s group,” Hardik said.

On Friday, Mr. Patel did not turn up at his office and did not even make public appearance anywhere. Sources in the government said he had made his displeasure known to the high command regarding the “lightweight portfolios” given to him despite being the Deputy CM.

In the new government, he got roads and buildings, Narmada, health and capital projects.

Opposition leader Manish Doshi pointed out that the “BJP has a history of marginalising powerful Patidar leaders like Keshubhai Patel, Dr. AK Patel, Dr. Vallabh Kathiria, Anandiben Patel, and the latest victim is Nitin Patel.”

Differences between Mr. Patel and Chief Minister Vijay Rupani cropped up on Thursday before the first Cabinet meeting to decide on portfolio allocation. The first meeting was delayed by four hours due to the differences. The meeting scheduled to ‪start at 5 pm on Thursday eventually commenced ‪at 9 pm after a marathon meeting at the CM’s residence where the CM, his deputy and state BJP president Jitu Vaghani assigned portfolios to the new ministers after consulting the party brass in New Delhi.

After the Cabinet meeting on Thursday night, Mr. Rupani, Mr. Patel and Mr. Vaghani held a press conference in which Mr Rupani ruled out any differences, but Mr. Patel did not talk to the press and sat there looking sullen.

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Printable version | Jan 17, 2022 10:53:22 AM |

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