Anandiben goes: BJP needed a scapegoat to stem Dalit anger
Anandiben Patel has resigned as the chief minister of Gujarat. The resignation itself doesn't come as a surprise. But the timing and manner of the resignation raise many questions.
"For some time now the party has followed a tradition wherein senior workers who cross the age of 75 years have voluntarily given up responsibilities... I too am turning 75 this November. But elections to the Gujarat assembly are due in end 2017, and the Vibrant Gujarat Summit is scheduled to take place in January 2017. The new chief minister would need enough time for these, because of which two months ago I had requested the senior party leadership to relieve me of my responsibilities. Today, through this letter, I am making another humble request to the senior party leadership to relieve me from the responsibilities of the chief minister," she wrote on her official Facebook page.
It is strange that she chose to resign on Facebook. The formality of going to the Governor and informing the party happened later.
Her resignation has been accepted by the Governor of Gujarat as well as the BJP leadership. BJP president Amit Shah has said that her resignation has been accepted by the party and now the parliamentary board of the BJP would meet soon to decide the new CM for the state.
Some of the names doing the rounds are Nitin Patel, minister for health and family welfare in Gujarat, recently appointed Union minister Purshottam Rupala and Gujarat minister Vijay Rupani.
Why did she resign?
A question that immediately comes to mind is: was BJP sleeping? This is an abrupt change of guard in a state that is presently going through a crisis. If she had requested to be relieved 2 months ago, why didn't Amit Shah decide on a replacement?
After all, Modi and Amit Shah are both from Gujarat and surely they would no who can be placed at the helm of the state.
The second question is, why did she resign on Facebook? After having given the leadership 2 months to find a replacement, it seems she didn't want to continue any more. To ensure that her resignation is accepted, she made it public on Facebook. In effect, she forced the leadership to let her go. After the Facebook post, there was little scope for the leadership to convince her to reconsider.
There are many reasons that can given for why Anandiben chose to resign at this juncture.
This resignation may have come to divert focus from the Una incident and Dalit agitations. On Sunday the Dalits from the state organised a huge rally in Ahmedabad. This rally not only targeted Anandiben but the Modi-led central government was also held responsible for atrocities on Dalits. Dalit rage can spread to other states as well, which would be disastrous for the BJP.
Ever the faithful party worker, Anandiben is perhaps trying to become the scapegoat to stem Dalit anger. It could be her way of saying 'all that happened was in my tenure. I am taking the responsibility and quitting'.
Gujarat is Modi's fortress. It is the ground zero of his politics and success. He served as the CM of the state for more than 12 years. When he came to Delhi and took oath as the PM in May 2014, he handed over the mantle to his close aide Anandiben.
However, the Patel agitation of 2015 was a big setback for Anandiben. She was unable to deal with the movement in an appropriate manner. The agitation has pitted the Patidars against the BJP, a party they had been supporting since decades.
Within few months, the name of Anandiben's daughter, Anar Patel, surfaced in shady business deals. The alleged corruption and misuse of power hit Anandiben more this time. The Una incident was the last nail in the coffin.
Therefore the "75-year rule" is just a fig leaf. The real reason Anandiben has resigned is to minimise the damage for the BJP in Gujarat. But is it too little, too late?
Edited by Aditya Menon
More in Catch