Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel has cited the 75-year cut-off age advocated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to > bow out of her current office. However the Chief Minister’s decision possibly stems from the many issues that marred her two-year stint in the post after she took over from Mr. Modi on May 22, 2014. A look at some of the key events during her rule:
Large shoes to fill
Prime Minister Modi (who ruled the State for 12 straight years) and BJP president Amit Shah are both from Gujarat, and slipping ground support in their home State was not something either of them would have liked to face. With increasing pressure from the party leadership after the Una protests and Patidar agitation, Ms. Patel was looking less and less like the leader who could take the BJP to victory in 2017. Local body polls held in December 2015 that saw the Congress do well reinforced the view that hers was not the winning hand the party was looking for.
For the last few weeks, Gujarat’s Dalit community has been protesting the public flogging of a group of Dalits who were skinning a dead cow in Mota Samadhiyala, a village near Una town in Saurashtra region on July 11. Four of them were brutally beaten up with steel pipes and iron rods, stripped, tied to an SUV and paraded in the main market near the local police station in Una by members of local cow vigilante group Gau Raksha Samiti (cow protection committee). The flogging was filmed, posted on Facebook as warning to other Dalits were they to repeat such acts. The video went viral, and led to an eruption of protests across the State in which more than 20 attempted suicide, dozens of vehicles were torched or vandalised, highways blocked and one policeman died of injuries sustained during pelting of stones.
The Una incident is not the only one that forced an uprising by Dalits in the State. Earlier in July, a Dalit farmer was killed by villagers when he tried to cultivate a common grazing land in a village near Porbandar. Only in April this year, a 31-year-old Dalit — Ketan Koradia, a clerk in a local court in Ahmedabad — committed suicide, alleging discrimination in the work place where he had constantly faced caste abuses. According to leading social activist Martin Macwan, Dalits were not allowed entry into temples in villages. >Read more
In Gujarat, Patels are around 12-15 % of the total population but they are among the most influential ones controlling state's politics, small and medium enterprises, education, diamond, cooperative and real estate sectors in the state's political economy. The agitation, helmed by 22-year-old commerce graduate Hardik Patel, took off as demands for OBC status for Patels in the state grew. Agitating since last July, the Patidar community has been demanding quota under Economically Backward Class (EBC) based on the economic criteria because the Patidars are traditionally a land owning community so it's not recognized as OBC (Other backward class). In a bid to placate agitating Patidars demanding quota for jobs and education, the Gujarat BJP government has announced 10 % quota for economically backward class among the upper castes, who are ineligible for quota under the existing system. After courting arrest on sedition charges and being jailed for nine months, Hardik Patel was released in July this year. He rejected the Gujarat government’s 10 per cent quota for economically backward classes saying there was no provision for the EBCs in the Constitution. The agitation spread throughout the state and has led to a mass movement after curfews, riots and many deaths. The Army was called in to at least eight districts — Rohtak, Bhiwani, Jhajjar, Sonipat, Hisar, Panipat, Jind and Kaithal and over 5,000 security personnel were deployed. Normal life was disrupted and the government came under severe flak for its inability to control the situation. > Read more
Land scams allegations involving Anandiben’s children have also surfaced. The allegation is that in 2010, the Gujarat government allotted 250 acres of land next to the Gir Lion Sanctuary in Patla village, Amreli district, to Wildwoods Resorts & Realties Private Limited (WWR) for setting up a resort. The WWR is promoted by Dakshesh Shah, a business partner of the Chief Minister’s daughter Anar Patel. Later, the Gujarat government, the promoters of Wildwood Resorts and Ms.Anar Patel came out with details dismissing all allegations of wrongdoing by them. The Gujarat government also issued a statement providing chronological details of the land allotment. > Read more
In February this year, PM Modi had allegedly asked Anandiben to dispel allegations about her children’s role (Anar and Shwetank) in interference in the state government’s activities. Shwetank Patel, (who changed his name from Sanjay) is a businessman and owns a Bombay stock exchange (BSE) listed company Ananr Industries Ltd, which as per its website “is an integrated construction, infrastructure development and management company in India.” His 44-year-old sister Anar is social entrepreneur and business woman, who runs several trusts promoting handicrafts, artisans and works among slum children. She also runs Anar Projects Ltd, which too is engaged in real estate activities. A prominent factor that has apparently given rise to the perception is their proximity to top builders and real estate players in Ahmedabad where land and realty prices have skyrocketed in last decade. > Read more