Uttarayan is kite-flying time in Gujarat. This January 14 was no different, except for the surcharged atmosphere caused by the added turbulence within the ruling BJP in the state. Ranged on opposing sides were two of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s closest lieutenants—party president Amit Shah and Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel. Hanging in the balance was the post of state BJP chief, with present occupant R.C. Faldu already on extension.
The announcement of the state president was slated for January 16 but postponed. The observer assigned by national-level leaders, Arjun Ram Meghwal, has had to postpone his visit to Gujarat twice. The fact is that key decisions pertaining to Gujarat are still taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the name of the new president will also be decided by him.
Like a true Gujarati, Shah had flown into Ahmedabad to enjoy the festival amidst widespread speculation in the social media—with newspapers joining the free-for-all—that he was taking over as chief minister, replacing Anandiben Patel. Posters also appeared calling for Sanjay Joshi’s return to active politics. Joshi was in Ahmedabad on December 20 to attend the wedding of VHP leader Pravin Togadia’s son. He also had a meeting with Anandiben Patel at the wedding reception. His subsequent moves also gave off the sense of canvassing. For, the next day, he was to call on ex-CM Keshubhai Patel at his residence and lunch with Governor O.P. Kohli at Raj Bhavan. Earlier, in a candid chat with mediapersons at the marriage venue, Joshi had stated that he was open to any responsibility the party deemed fit for him.
It is common knowledge that RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat has been unhappy with the sidelining of Joshi—who was ejected from Gujarat after a video ‘sex’ scandal—and wants his services to be utilised at a time when the party has been losing one state after another. BJP leaders, in awe of Modi in Gujarat, are scared of voicing their views on Joshi on record but admit in private that his sidelining has been a loss to the party. Internal dissensions apart, the BJP’s cup of woes is full and overflowing in Gujarat. The outlines of an anti-BJP front are acquiring shape in the state. The Patels are already on the warpath and the arrest and detention of the community’s youth leaders—mainly Hardik Patel—on charges of sedition is only provoking the community further, though the ruling party is confident of dealing with it by driving a wedge between the leaders.
Patel leaders are now reaching out to Dalits, while on the other hand, the SC, ST, OBC Ekta Manch is also organising itself. Alpesh Thakore, the convenor of the Thakore Sena, held a rally in Ahmedabad on Republic Day, ostensibly to build awareness against alcoholism. But it was widely interpreted as a show of strength. Juxtapose this with the fact that the JD(U), led by tribal leader Chhotubhai Vasava, has emerged as the third political force in the adivasi pocket, particularly in Bharuch, Narmada and Chota Udepur districts. JD(U) had only a thin presence in Bharuch district in 2010, but in the recently concluded local self-government elections won five tehsil panchayats. By winning nine seats in the Bharuch district panchayat, and six in Narmada district panchayat, the party now has considerable leverage in these two districts. The JD(U) has emerged as the kingmaker in these districts. It is now working hard to enlarge its sway in the tribal belt. The JD(U) teamed up with the Congress in Bihar. And to top it now, the AAP has begun a search for allies, keeping in mind the 2017 assembly elections. Modi’s citadel Gujarat is being encircled for a siege.