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Not fighting Gujarat polls is a clever move by Anandiben

Rajeev Khanna | Updated on: 10 October 2017, 20:36 IST

Why did Anandiben Patel rule herself out from contesting the forthcoming Gujarat Assembly elections? Some political observers think the move helps the former chief minister assert herself in the Bharatiya Janata Party; it also helps her settle scores with BJP President Amit Shah, a kown detractor.

At the same time Patel's decision has given a new dimension to the Patidar (or Patel) politics in Gujarat. In fact, over the last few weeks the party leadership was desperate to placate her.

“The BJP knows well that she is the most credible Patel leader in the state. In comparison, Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel has proved to be a disaster,” a young proffessional in Ahmedabad said.

“She is also the only woman face the BJP has here. After all, she come to be known as the 'Big Ben' of Gujarat politics as she rose through the ranks to become the CM after party poster boy Narendra Modi vacated the post,” the professional, who is from the same community, said.

In a two-page letter to Shah, Patel expressed her desire to not contest the polls and requested the party leadership to allow her to function as an active local worker from her constituency, Ghatlodia in Ahmedabad.

Interestingly, explaining her decision Patel cited the BJP's policy of no leader above 70 holding any post – just like she had when she stepped down as CM.

In August Shah said the party didn't have any such policy. But not all were impressed.

“Why was it not made clear when she resigned last year? Things started changing only when the BJP decided upon BS Yeddyurappa as the CM candidate for Karnataka. And now even in Himachal Pradesh Prem Kumar Dhumal is in the reckoning,” an observer pointed out.

Several persons from Gujarat told this reporter that politically things are coming a full circle in the state, often referred to as the laboratory of Hindutva.

A senior Ahmedabad-based political commentator pointed out similarities between the stepping down of Anandiben and Kesubhai Patel.

He was removed to make way for Modi as Gujarat CM. Among the reasons cited then were the senior leader's ill health and the political fall-out of the rehabilitation following the 2002 Bhuj earthquake. Following the quake the Congress wrested some key local bodies, including the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation.

The same sequence was repeated in Anandiben's case: the message that went down the line was that she was unable to control the Patidar agitation. The Dalit upsurge after the infamous public flogging of four men in Una added to this. Also, there were charges of an alleged land fraud against her daughter.

Now, Shah's son Jay faces serious allegations amid alleged cash windfall for his business venture. Current CM Vijay Rupani is in the dock over how his government handled the floods in north Gujarat. There is unrest and opposition to the BJP among various sections of the society right before the polls. So now it is time for the 'Big Ben' to sit and watch while settling her scores,” the observer said.

Its is common knowledge among those politically conscious about that Anandiben and Shah have been at logger heads for years. “To resolve the issue Modi made one the CM and took the other with him to Delhi and ensured he got all top party spots,” a political analyst pointed out.

Anandiben's detractors are said to have made her shift from a safe seat like Patan in north Gujarat to Ghatlodia in Ahmedabad. She developed that too to a safe seat for the BJP. Both the constituencies have a substantial presence of north Gujarat Patels.

This time there again was some noise about a change in seat, sources said. Also, there has been no indication of her being made a CM again in case the BJP wins. For her, there's no point being only a member of the Legislative Assembly after being at the top post.

Some peope have cited a BJP leader Subramanian Swamy's October 6 tweet calling for Anandiben to be made the CM candidate to secure an easy win. “Such messages are not tweeted and circulated all of a sudden. They carry deep meanings,” a young political observer said.

The BJP's boat is in choppy waters. Anandiben apart, in the last month a couple of other leaders too have apparently expressed their desire to not contest and work for the party organisation. Everyone knows when one expresses such desires,” veteran journalist and political commentator RK Mishra said.

He pointed out that the response for the BJP's Gujarat Gaurav Yatra has been lukewarm. While Congress Vice-president Rahul Gandhi has been drawing crowds during his visit.

Despite having given up the CM's post, Anandiben has been seen on the dais with Modi at almost all public programmes he has attended in Gujarat. She is assumed to hold a major say in the distribution of tickets, particularly for constituencies where Patel voters hold the key.

Edited by Joyjeet Das

First published: 10 October 2017, 20:36 IST