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Gujarat Results: Meet Gujarat CM Bhupendra Patel, BJP Satrap Who Helped Modi-Shah Win Gujarat

The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) has won an unprecedented mandate in Gujarat as it has crossed the 150-mark in the 182-seat Gujarat assembly.

Bhupendra Patel, the new chief minister of Gujarat
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The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is entrusting Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel with a second chief ministerial tenure. 

Following BJP's unprecedented landslide victory in Gujarat assembly elections, BJP Gujarat President CR Paatil on Thursday said that Patel will be sworn in the Chief Minister of Gujarat on December 12.

Following Narendra Modi's elevation from Chief Minister of Gujarat to Prime Minister of India, BJP struggled for years with leadership in Gujarat and changed chief ministers thrice in a short time, comparable to Uttarakhand. The absence of Modi in Gujarat was visible in 2017 Gujarat elections when BJP barely scraped victory and Congress came close to the majority-mark. 

In 2017, the BJP won 99 of the 182 Gujarat assembly and the Congress and allies won 78 seats. 

In 2012, however, the BJP drove Congress to the margins by scoring an unprecedented victory with 150-plus seats. While Modi was definitely BJP's talisman in Gujarat elections, with Shah by his side, the role of Patel too should not be underestimated, who helped deliver Gujarat results as the BJP high command's trusted satrap.

Patel has years of experience behind him, rising through the BJP ranks from municipal politics to being the chief minister.

Bhupendra Patel, a surprise CM pick

Bhupendra Patel was unanimously elected as the BJP legislature party leader following the resignation of Vijay Rupani as Chief Minister of Gujarat.

Patel was sworn in as the 17th Chief Minister of Gujarat on September 13, 2021.

Patel's selection as Gujarat CM was seen as course correction at the time. Patel belonged to the Patidar community, which had agitated against the BJP-led government and was believed to be miffed with the party at the time.

When the BJP decided to replace Rupani and bring in a Patel community face as the chief minister, Patel emerged the winner, leaving others, including the then deputy chief minister Nitin Patel, behind.

Prior to becoming the CM in September 2021, Patel was not a known face outside Ahmedabad and even within BJP circles. The surprise choice of the party has in the last one year taken some tough decision to establish himself as the leader in Gujarat.

Journey from local bodies to Gujarat CM

Patel was a veteran of local-body politics when he contested his first assembly election in 2017.

In 2017, Patel won the election with a margin of 1.17 lakh — the highest for any candidate in the elections.

Patel studied civil engineering and worked in the construction sector before entering politics.

In 1995, Patel became a member of the Memnagar municipality. It would be the beginning of over two decades of career in local bodies and urban planning. He held the following offices during the period: 

• President of Memnagar municipality (1999-2000, 2004-06)
• Vice Chairman of Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation School Board (2008-10)
• Standing Committee Chairman of Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (2010-15)
• Chairman of Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority (2015-17)

Patel as BJP's damage control man

In 2017, due to the Patidar quota agitation, the BJP was reduced to 99 seats, its lowest tally since 1995. It was important for the party to win back this section of voters.

Patel's elevation and his subsequent projection as chief ministerial face —he is the first from the Kadva Patidar sub-group to be the chief minister— is key to BJP's plans to woo the Kadva Patidar community, which some political observers feel, has drifted away from the party.

The Patidar community was miffed with Anandiben Patel over the question of reservation. However, her resignation and the new leadership of Rupani could not placate them. Rupani’s deputy Nitin Patel, who is also a Patidar, made no demands within the party for his community’s concerns, which meant a section of Patidars felt that while the leader they were angry with —Anandiben— had resigned, her replacement —Rupani— was not any better. Moreover, they lost representation in the government as Rupani was not a Patidar but a Jain.

Therefore, Patel served as a way to placate the Patidars. 

Bhupendra Patel as a person

Fondly called as 'Dada' by many, Patel is considered to be close to Anandiben Patel. 

People close to him know Patel as a smiling face, who is well-connected to the grass roots.

Patel is also a trustee of Sardardham Vishwa Patidar Kendra, an organisation to dedicated to the socio-economic development of the Patidar community.

Patel is married to Hetalben, a housewife. He has travelled the world and has his residence in Ahmedabad's Shilaj locality. He likes to indulge in spiritual activities, as well as games like cricket and badminton.  

Patel has also been described as a clean and sensitive leader. He is also said to have been involved in welfare work during the initial phase of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Anil Jodhani, who served as personal secretary of Bhupendra Patel, recalled an incident when a group of Congress corporators confronted Patel over drinking water issues at Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation. 

“One of the corporators picked up a glass of water and threw it on Patel’s face, but he was unfazed. He didn’t call the security. Instead, the next day, he invited them all for a discussion over tea,” said Jodhani, as per The Indian Express.

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Patel does not have have any criminal case against him. This is also believed to have worked in his favour.

A party worker described Patel as a “sensitive” leader to The Express and informed he ran a tiffin service for nearly 1,000 COVID-19 patients at the Ahmedabad Civil Hospital at the height of the pandemic and had set-up a 24x7 help desk for people seeking treatment, food, and other services. 

(With PTI inputs)

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