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Nitin Patel: the man who almost became the Gujarat CM

Rajeev Khanna | Updated on: 11 February 2017, 6:42 IST
The new CM
  • Nitin Patel was one of the favourites in the running towards becoming the next CM of Gujarat
  • In a surprise decision, Vijay Rupani was named new CM of the state
  • Nitin Patel settled for the designation of deputy CM instead
More in the story
  • All you need to know about Nitin Patel and why he matters
  • Why the Patel base matters in Gujarat

In what came as a surprise to many, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) picked Vijay Rupani as the new chief minister for Gujarat on Friday.

As the vital decision of choosing Anandiebn Patel's successor drew closer, speculations about candidates also peaked. Nitin Patel was one of the front runners in the case.

Also read:Neutrality, strong RSS background helped Vijay Rupani become Gujarat CM

In a shock decision, the party picked Vijay Rupani while Nitin Patel had to make do with the designation of deputy chief minister. So, who is this man?

Here's all that you need to know about Nitin Patel - the man who almost became the Gujarat CM.

The story behind the man

Currently, a minister in the state Cabinet, Nitin had emerged as a favourite because of various local factors of which the desperation of the party to have a Patel face as the chief minister was the prime one.

Nitin Patel held the portfolios of health, medical education, family welfare, road and building and capital projects in current CM Anandiben Patel's ministry.

He earlier held the portfolios of water supply, water resources, urban development and urban housing, which are among the most important ones in the context of Gujarat. He was also the finance minister in the regime of Narendra Modi. His last election to the Gujarat legislative assembly was from Mehsana.

Where it all began

Nitin Patel entered the state assembly way back in 1990. Before that he was active in the civic politics of Kadi town of Mehsana district.The Kadi constituency became a reserved one, post delimitation.

He lost two polls that he contested in that period, once for the state assembly in 2002 and then again for the Lok Sabha in 2004.

In the state assembly, he has been the most vocal of the state ministers and has always led the attacks on the opposition on almost all issues. He is otherwise an entrepreneur who owns cotton ginning units and edible oil mills.

What made Nitin Patel a frontrunner?

Observers felt that after having suffered a double whammy in Gujarat from the Patels on one side and the Dalits on the other, the BJP would have been compelled to bring in a Patel face to undo the damage done to its Patel support base over the last one year.

But Nitin Patel topping the list of speculations was a surprise because he had borne the ire of the Patels last year when his house was attacked during the Patidar reservation stir. However, he remained a prominent Patel leader from North Gujarat.

Ironically the BJP had lost the Kadi seat that Nitin Patel had represented in 2012 when he moved to Mehsana. The party was also on the losing side in the last local bodies elections in Kadi.

Patel power

Observers believed that since Patels form the core political base of the party, the BJP was compelled to have a Patel successor to the post of the chief minister.

Ever since the party came to power in Gujarat in the mid-nineties, it has had two chief ministers Keshubhai Patel and Anandiiben Patel from the Patel strongholds of Saurashtra and North Gujarat.

Patels have also found places of prominence in all the cabinets of the BJP chief ministers including those of Modi when he was the chief minister.

Patels have been the backbone of the BJP since the time the party was led by Keshubhai Patel. They have always praised Keshubhai for turning them into a political force that could take on Darbars (Rajputs) who mainly supported the Congress.

There was a widely held view that the ongoing tussle in Gujarat between Anandiben and BJP's national president Amit Shah has resulted in this opportunity for Nitin.

"With round one going in favour of Shah following the debacle for Anandiben after the ongoing Dalit agitation, the latter has now thrown her weight behind Nitin. With Vijay Rupani, who was being considered the front-runner for the post, announcing his preference to work for the organisation, Nitin's path stood clear. But at the same time, Anandiben has also announced that she has no intention to leave Gujarat which is not good news for the Amit Shah camp. She is expected to now go hammer and tongs at Shah's camp. So, Nitin's rise is the culmination of this ongoing rivalry between the two," said a veteran political observer.

He further pointed, "In any case, Gujarat chief ministers will continue to be puppets till the time Modi is the prime minister and Shah heads the party. They have a very limited area to operate in. As in Aandiben's regime, she did not even have the power to transfer IPS officers which was being done at Shah's behest. Shah has his own interests in the department being the former home minister. The same will continue to happen now as well. In any case, Nitin is just being seen as a stop-gap arrangement till 2017 assembly polls. It is only Modi's decision that matters in Gujarat. He has zeroed in on a name and the rest of the procedure of organisational heads visiting the place, consultations, proposals etc will all be a drama that needs to be enacted."

Playing the odds

Nitin Patel's biggest strength in the present circumstances was that he has been a staunch party worker for more than the last three three decades.

He has been a Modi as well as Anandiben loyalist while at the same time maintaining cordial relations with the Shah camp. He has been the party's firing cannon in the state assembly taking on the opposition on almost every issue.

But when one talks about his weaknesses, his biggest disadvantage is his lack of a mass base support. He does not have a mass appeal outside his constituency. He is also said to be weak in handling bureaucracy, unlike both Modi and Aandiben who had an iron grip on the officials.

His administrative capabilities are said to be a major weakness. Nitin is also said to be disorganised when it comes to handling ministries. And he is not considered to be a good orator.

Observers also speculated that the other option available with the state BJP as Anandiben's replacement was finance minister Saurabh Patel who is very sophisticated and also well organised.

But his disadvantage too is the lack of a mass base. Nitin at least has the advantage of representing a Patel heartland of North Gujarat.

All these three BJP heavyweights Anandiben, Nitin and Saurabh had changed their constituencies in 2012 owing to heavy anti-incumbency.

They had managed victories in their new constituencies but of them, Nitin had managed a victory with the thinnest margin.However, despite all odds in favour of Nitin Patel, the party clearly decided otherwise.

Edited by Jhinuk Sen

Also Read: BJP to remove Anandiben as CM of Gujarat?

Also Read: I won't be Gujarat Chief Minister again, says Anandiben Patel

Also Read: Anandiben goes: BJP needed a scapegoat to stem Dalit anger

Also Read: Another Patel may replace Anandiben as Gujarat CM

First published: 6 August 2016, 6:50 IST