Another Patel may replace Anandiben as Gujarat CM
Anandiben Patel's days as the Chief Minister of Gujarat are numbered, if sources within the BJP are to be believed. And the buzz is that Nitinbhai Patel, another important face from the community and a current state cabinet minister, is set to replace her.
It's obvious that the Patel agitation has hit the party hard in the state. In fact, the decreasing popularity of Anandiben and her government has reportedly got Prime Minister Narendra Modi worried too.
The state goes in to the polls towards the end of 2017, and with just over a year in hand, Modi and the BJP want to course correct, and retain power in the state that the party has held uninterrupted since 1998.
Surviving the rumours
After Modi's Lok Sabha victory on 16 May 2014, Anandiben took oath as CM of the state, even before Modi was sworn in as PM. The decision was not opposed by the state unit and ministers, despite disagreements and disappointments among them over the selection.
Anandiben is still in office, despite numerous rumours during the past few months that she is to be replaced.
"But this time, it is a serious thing. The announcement is possible anytime, soon after the 19 May Assembly poll results, or in the beginning of June," a party source told Catch.
For long, it was believed that BJP national president Amit Shah would be Anandiben's replacement as CM. But after Nitinbhai met the PM in Delhi, his name is seemingly at the top of the list.
Why not Amit Shah?
The question is, why would the party choose another Patel face over Shah? After all, when Modi was the CM, he was the No.2 man in the cabinet. There's also no doubt that Shah is Modi's most trusted aide.
However, there are many reasons for Modi to keep Shah out of the state's affairs.
1. There is no one to replace Shah at the Centre, as Modi's aide: To manage and control the BJP is a more important and challenging task for Modi than Gujarat. Modi can't afford to lose his most trusted lieutenant at a time when many state elections and government-level fronts are to be managed and controlled.
2. The need of the hour is to find a face from the Patel community, who can manage the agitation: The BJP doesn't want to give the agitating Patels any opportunity to interpret Anandiben's removal as another slight to the community. Nitinbhai is seen as an efficient Patel leader. Also, he is seen as someone who will do Modi's bidding.
3. Amit Shah doesn't fit into the state's caste-based arithmetic: Shah has been elevated to a very senior role in the party. However, he is still a junior to many others in the state unit of the party. If he becomes CM, there are more chances of a lack of cooperation, and attempts to sabotage the state government.
4. In case BJP slips further, the blame should not fall on Modi or Shah: The top two need someone from the state who can take the blame for possible failure in the state, and shield them from any underachievement. Winning a lower number of seats or even losing in Gujarat could be seen as the final fall in Modi's popularity and charisma. And that's not something Modi can afford.
Recent defeats in elections, the Rohith Vemula case and other economic crises have kept Modi on the back foot, which is why previous opportunities to replace Anandiben have gone abegging. This would only have made the Opposition more aggressive.
But now, the possibility of a victory in Assam and an increase in vote percentages in the other states have made it possible for Modi and the BJP to finally have an 'achhe din' moment, after a long time.
This is why it's looking likelier by the day that Anandiben will get replaced soon.