Faced with infighting in the party and huge disenchantment on the ground, beleaguered Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel on Monday offered to resign and asked the BJP to select a new face before she turns 75 on November 21.
By offering to quit, she has pre-empted any move to remove her. Her decision comes at a time when the BJP’s long dominance in the State appears to be under strain, just a year before the Assembly elections.
For some months now, the Patels have been protesting against her government and more recently the Dalits have risen in revolt against the atrocities on members of their community.
“There has been a tradition in the party that those who attain the age of 75 voluntarily retire from the post. I will attain the age of 75 in November,” the State’s first woman Chief Minister, who succeeded Narendra Modi on May 22, 2014, said in a Facebook post.
“Two months ago, I had requested the party to relieve me from the post and today also through this letter, I request the party to relieve me,” Ms. Patel said.
“I am asking the party to relieve me two months in advance as the new Chief Minister will require time to settle down, especially when the State is going to face elections in 2017 and an important event like Vibrant Gujarat Summit is to be held in January,” she added.
Party decided to drop her last month
Top BJP sources told The Hindu that a decision to drop Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel was taken earlier last month and that Prime Minister Narendra Modi would decide her successor.
“The decision to dispense with Anandiben was taken at a meeting in New Delhi on July 17 presided over by Mr. Modi with BJP chief Amit Shah in attendance. This decision was also conveyed to her that evening,” a senior party office-bearer said.
“We will be calling a meeting of the party’s parliamentary board to choose her replacement,” he said. After the parliamentary board clears the name of the successor, a meeting of the BJP legislature party will be called and the successor will be formally endorsed.
For the past several months, Ms. Patel, known for her efficiency in administration but lacking in political shrewdness, had been facing infighting with some party leaders trying to “destabilise and dislodge” her.
“It is well known that some leaders never accepted her authority and did everything to destabilise and dislodge her. A few senior leaders in the Cabinet never liked the fact they were overlooked and she was made the Chief Minister,” a source close to her told The Hindu.
Two months back as she completed two years in office, there was intense media speculation that she was going to be removed. Several names were also floated as the possible replacement. “Her image was demolished using the media. People from the State were sent to brief RSS leaders and the PM about her family members’ so-called interference in government,” the source said.