Top leaders in BJP’s Gujarat unit are gunning for Chief Minister Anandiben Patel’s scalp. There are reports that she could be given a gubernatorial post. The desperate move is a part of bid by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah’s to ensure that the party retains power in their home state. Gujarat is due to elect a new Assembly in 2017.
Patel became the CM after Modi became the Prime Minister after 2014 Lok Sabha vote.
Party sources said that there is a strong chance that Anandiben is likely to be appointed as a Governor in Haryana or Punjab. Nitinbhai Patel, who holds many key portfolios including health in Gujarat government, is said to be among the frontrunners tip to replace Anandiben.
The Gujarat CM has struggled with the massive Patidar agitation for reservation in the state, which began in last August and has soured BJP’s relations with the influential Patel community. Anandiben had been given three months by the party to resolve the Patidar agitation or quit.
There were allegations that her children are meddle in government matters and influence decision making. Modi had asked her to come clean on that issue. In February, there were reports that her daughter, Anar Jayesh Patel, was accused of being involved in an illegal land deal in Gujarat’s Gir sanctuary. This was also used by her detractors in their campaign against the CM
By replacing Anandiben, the BJP wants to consolidate its political support base and shake off any anti-incumbency sentiment from two decades of rule.
Anti-incumbency was very clear in the recent local bodies polls, where the Congress snatch 23 out of the 31 district panchayats and 113 out of the 193 taluka panchayats from the BJP.
A report submitted by the by PM Modi’s main man in Gujarat, Om Mathur, accused Anandiben for her failure in handling Patidar agitation and calls for an urgent need to end infighting in the state BJP unit.
The report says that communication and coordination between the state government and the BJP needs to improve and proposes a change in both the government and party structure.
After the report was submitted, there were reports that party president Amit Shah pushed the CM to announce a 10 percent quota for the economically backward, those earning less than Rs 6 lakh per year. This move was a first step towards bridging ties with the Patels.
Anandiben will turn 75 later this year which gives the BJP a reason to ease her out, since Modi has set an age limit for ministers and chief ministers.
“The feedback from Gujarat was very worrying. Even the most-optimistic projections by our people in Gujarat have said that if things remain the same, it will be tough to remain in power during the assembly polls in 2017. It won’t be just an electoral set back. PM Narendra Modi is from Gujarat and it would give everyone a handle to beat Modi with. Gujarat just can’t be lost,” said a BJP leader.