Former Gujarat Chief Minister and a stalwart who played a key role in building the BJP in Gujarat, Keshubhai Patel, died of cardiac arrest on Thursday morning. He was 92.
Mr. Patel was rushed to a private hospital in Ahmedabad after he fell unconscious at his residence in Gandhinagar. The nonagenarian had recently tested positive for COVID-19 but had recovered.
The BJP veteran was Gujarat’s chief minister in 1995 when the party came to power for the first time and again during 1998-2001. Prime Minister Narendra Modi succeeded him as Gujarat chief minister in October 2001.
As news of his demise became public, condolences began pouring in from top functionaries and leaders including the President of India Ram Nath Kovind, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
President Ram Nath Kovind in his condolence message tweeted, “With the demise of Keshubhai Patel, former Gujarat chief minister, the nation has lost a stalwart leader. His long public life was dedicated to improving the lives of millions, especially in villages. As champion of farmers’ causes, he enjoyed extraordinary rapport with masses.”
Paying a rich tribute to the late Chief Minister and grassroots leader, Prime Minister described him as his mentor. “Our beloved and respected Keshubhai passed away… I am deeply pained and saddened. He was an outstanding leader who cared for every section of society. His life was devoted towards the progress of Gujarat and the empowerment of every Gujarati.”
“Keshubhai mentored and groomed many younger karyakartas including me. Everyone loved his affable nature. His demise is an irreparable loss. We are all grieving today. My thoughts are with his family and well wishers. Spoke to his son Bharat and expressed condolences. Om Shanti,” Mr. Modi tweeted from his social media handle.
During his long political career, Mr Patel, who had begun his political innings with the Jan Sangh, was six-time member of the State Assembly, member of Rajya Sabha and minister and Chief Minister of the State besides holding the post of leader of the opposition.
After he resigned as Chief Minister in 2001 following the party’s poor performance in local elections and also after a devastating earth quake in which more than 15,000 people died in January 2001, Mr Patel was sent to Rajya Sabha from Gujarat.
In the run up to the Assembly polls in 2012, Mr. Patel had floated a regional party Gujarat Parivartan party (GPP), which fared poorly winning only two seats in the State. Before the parliamentary polls in 2014, Mr. Patel had resigned as MLA while merging his GPP with BJP.
Subsequently, he retired from political life and devoted his time to Somnath Temple Board where he was chairman of the trust in which Mr. Modi and Mr. Amit Shah are also members.
As Chief Minister, Mr Patel is credited with pioneering works in building canal networks of the Narmada project to bring water from South Gujarat to water starved Saurashtra and North Gujarat regions.
In fact, both his tenures as CM were marked with political instability which had led to his resignation in 1995 and subsequently from 1998 onwards, with natural calamities like consecutive droughts, massive cyclones and the devastating Bhuj earthquake in 2001.