One of the most telling images to have emerged out of the Gujarat elections involved Narendra and Bhupendra. It was a typical Narendra Modi roadshow before the rally. The flamboyant prime minister was the centre of attraction even as crowds lined up on both sides of the road, showering him with petals. The equally enthusiastic Modi would repeatedly stop his cavalcade to shake hands with his fans.
But the image that tugged at people’s heart was of an elderly man silently walking behind Modi’s vehicle. That man was Bhupendra Patel, who had his moment in the sun on Monday afternoon, when he was sworn-in as Gujarat’s chief minister for the second time, in the presence of, and with the blessings of, Narendra Modi and Amit Shah.
Patel, 60, born on July 15, 1962 in Ahmedabad, has been associated with the RSS. He has a Diploma in civic engineering from Ahmedabad’s Government Polytechnic, and had a successful career as a builder.
A staunch believer of spiritual leader Dada Bhagwan, Patel is called ‘Dada’ by his supporters. An MLA from Ghatlodiya, the Narendra-Bhupendra combination surprised even the BJP by winning 156 seats in the state Assembly this time around. Modi described Patel as “soft person” who is a “firm leader”.
Patel won the municipal elections from Memnagar Nagarpalika in 1995. He led the Memnagar Nagarpalika from 1999 to 2004, and emerged as vice-president of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation from 2008 to 2010.
He was chairman of the Ahmedabad Urban Development Board from 2015 to 2017. In the 2017 state elections, he contested from Ghatlodia, the seat of former Chief Minister Anandiben Patel, and won by 1.17 lakh votes. Known as close to Anandiben, he replaced Vijay Rupani as Gujarat’s CM in 2021 because of his quality of being a low-profile man.
Insiders in the BJP say that within a year, he created an image of a loyal and firm person in the eyes of Modi and Amit Shah; someone they can trust completely. And that’s perhaps one of the reasons that he was elevated as chief minister without ever becoming a minister.
Talking about his firmness, he earned the moniker ‘Bulldozer Dada’ for demolishing several illegal constructions in Porbandar. The ‘soft’ Bhupendra also emerges from time to time, when he breaks the security protocols of the CM and joins people to sip tea at roadside joints.
In the election affidavit, Patel declared a single Activa scooter in the name of his family, which is in the name of his wife. Soft or firm, one thing is for sure, Bhupendra is here to stay, with the blessings of Narendra.