He is a man who is an MP but known all across the country. There are two reasons for this. One, C R Paatil, a three-time MP, won the Loksabha elections in 2019 from Navsari with a victory margin of over 6.89 lacs which is the highest victory margin of all candidates in the Loksabha. Secondly, C R Paatil is the Gujarat BJP President and the State will go for crucial Assembly elections with the State unit under his helm.
Today, C R Paatil completed two years as President of the Gujarat BJP and Vibes of India caught up with him.
Supremely confident and assertive as the Party chief, C R Paatil is also known for his humbleness and sense of connecting with the party workers at the lowest level. People that Vibes of India (Vo!) spoke to across the spectrum describe Paatil as a “one man army”, the most “hi-tech president Gujarat BJP has ever had” and a very “hands-on president” who knows what’s happening where across the State and across various political parties.
Last two years, under C R Paatil’s leadership, the BJP has gone places. Paatil has sailed through the toughest challenges with a poise, an ease and confidence. “Thanks to PM Shri Narendrabhai Modi, Amitbhai Shah and all leaders,I am all set to face the next big challenge”. Well, it is of course not a challenge because as of now, there is no political party be it the Congress or AAP is anywhere a match near the BJP, but still as Mr Paatil says, “an election is an election” and we know we are going to win but we want to win very well and hence I call all elections a challenge. He emphasises that “Gujarat has Narendrabhai’s name etched over it all over and the BJP workers are highly motivated in Gujarat”, which makes his “challenge” very do-able but he again repeats that the BJP is known for its’ planning and smooth execution and hence we are very serious about the coming polls. “This is why I call the forthcoming Gujarat elections a challenge”, he clarifies adding that “I am confident of winning 182/182 seats in Gujarat but I want to make sure that we win every seat with a victory margin of over 50,000 votes.
Ever since C R Paatil took over from Jitu Vaghani of Saurashtra, there was a murmur campaign that Saurashtra would feel alienated. Choosing him as the State BJP Chief was PM Modi’s master stroke as the “caste matters” perception also was crushed in Gujarat. C R Paatil is a Gujarati at heart and Gujarat has been his karmabhoomi but he is a Maharashtrian by birth. Paatil has proved that caste or region does not matter. What matters is the work you do and the way you handle party workers. One of the most difficult challenges for C R Paatil was Coronavirus and the second was “perception management of the BJP” soon after the entire cabinet of CM Vijay Rupani, including himself, was replaced in an almost secretive operation.
As a senior BJP minister from Saurashtra says, “ at such times, the biggest challenge is to keep your flock together. Paatil saheb proved his leadership not only by keeping the flock together but added more teeth to it in the last two years with several strategic additions from the Congress party”. Even Congress and AAP leaders that Vibes of India spoke to, do not rule out Patil’s role in the formation of the Eknath Shinde-BJP government in Maharashtra. When Eknath Shinde rebelled against Uddhav Thackeray, he came down to Surat as he “felt safe and secure”.
From the start of his career in the police department to being an entrepreneur and even a media baron (he once published a newspaper from Surat), Paatil’s journey has never been easy but what has kept him going is his trust in his leader Narendra Modi. Ever since CM Modi started ruling Gujarat in 2001, CR threw his weight behind Mr Modi. He was among the first few State BJP leaders who firmly believed and articulated in his close circle that CM Modi was made for bigger role and responsibility. From the time to when PM Modi decided to contest from Varanasi and Vadodara in 2014 when he became the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate to the present times, C R Paatil has never had an iota of doubt in his leader and his capabilities. “it is Narendrabhai’s name in Gujarat that is helping me a lot. We will fulfil all his dreams of Gujarat”, he adds claiming that the BJP is all set for a consecutive electoral victory march that has been on since 2002.
CR Paatil’s journey in the BJP is of patience, grit and hard work. He was inculcated in the BJP by Atal Behari Vajpayee in 1989 when the BJP was hardly known even in Gujarat. It took 20 years for C R Paatil to get a Loksabha ticket but he bid his time patiently as a disciplined soldier of the party. Once, he did ask for a corporation ticket to contest elections, but when that was denied; he did not even murmur. He continued with his work and never refused any responsibility.
Even after winning with the third highest victory margin in 2019 and the third highest victory margin in 2014, C R Paatil was not disheartened when he was not made a Minister in the Modi cabinet. Instead, he continued to work well in his constituency and South Gujarat. It was only in 2020, nearly a year after PM Modi’s second innings as the PM, that he picked CR Paatil to head the Gujarat unit of the BJP. A man who began his career as a constable in 1975 in Gujarat after doing a vocational course at a local ITI, C R Paatil has learnt that patience and hard work can even surpass the best of the talents.
In fact, people close to Mr Paatil claim that while Paatil waited patiently, he was confident that “once I will get a chance to bat like Sachin, all the records will be in my name” Vo! asked C R Paatil what we have heard all these years. Is it true that the page pramukh system which is now implemented by the BJP across the country was actually a Paatil invention. Without bragging, Mr Paatil answers in the assertive. “This really helped me. If I don’t share it with my Party, who will”, he laughs it out. A cursory look at the Navsari constituency and its demographics reveals that this page pramukh exercise and its implementation reaped in rich rewards for Mr Paatil like it is doing now for the BJP across the country. This establishes him as a super strategist.
There would be a page where all voters’ names would be listed. One person would be responsible of only one page and would ensure that all the names on that particular page turned up to vote. This was the basic essence of a page pramukh. Demographics reveal that even Muslims votes for C R Paatil in his first election itself because of his grass root politics, reach out and strategic planning. Next elections that he contested in 2019 saw even more Muslims voting for him.
In the recent past, Khodaldham was a challenge for the BJP. Naresh Patel was obviously in direct touch with Congress at that point of time. Few meetings with C R Paatil and Naresh Patel declared that he would not enter active politics. A little before that, Mr Paatil coaxed Hardik Patel who helped the Paatidar Andolan movement against BJP, to quit Congress and join the saffron bandwagon. “Because C R Paatil is not a Gujarati, in fact, it has become easier for him and the BJP to connect to all communities across the State be it Kshatriyas or Patels”, admits a Congress turncoat who has been dropped from the ministry but vouches for C R Paatil’s hold as the president in the State.
In two years, after CR became the Party President, he has travelled over 1.32 lakh kilometers which means he lives a suitcase existence. Unlike many other politicians, C R Paatil prefers to stay at government circuit houses. This is one reason which has ensured that people who earlier addressed him as CR has switched over to CR Saheb or Paatil Saheb. “Because we respect him.
He is 67. But he runs around more than a 26-year-old”, says a Congress leader from Central Gujarat adding that “three years ago, Paatil was just an MP. Today, he has become the face of the BJP in Gujarat. I will not be surprised if the BJP decides to make him the next Gujarat Chief Minister”. The Congress leader says his Party is yet to even go to grassroots while BJP under Paatil’s leadership has “finished his Gujarat tour, “at least twice”. Political observers vouch that after Union Home Minister Amit Shah, it is C R Paatil who has become the king of co-operatives. The BJP has won in more than 311 big and small co-operative outfits across Gujarat after Paatil brought in a compulsory mandate to vote for the BJP for BJP workers. Otherwise, as it happened in the past, during AMUL’s elections, Congress and BJP leaders often put their weight behind a strong co-operative leader rather than voting for their respective parties.
While there were murmurs that the BJP would not fare well in the municipal corporation elections, C R Paatil ensured that the BJP won all the 8 Corporations and that too by grabbing over 90 per cent of the seats. In South Gujarat, the AAP made an impressive entry but in the last two years, CR Paatil ensured that many of the AAP candidates either resign or join the BJP.
So is Paatil a soft-spoken people person? Definitely not. It takes courage and confidence to announce in public meetings that “being in close proximity with leaders is no guarantee of you getting a poll ticket”. A bold statement that endeared him to his grassroot level workers and leaders. Or his statement before that where he said instead of Congress turncoats, tickets should be given to original BJP cadre. The new Bhupendra Patel cabinet saw most of the Congress turncoats in the BJP being dropped from ministerial berths which further enhanced the morale of grassroot level party workers. And Paatil did all this without establishing himself as the final authority of Gujarat. In fact, as C R Paatil recently said in a public meeting, “it is PM Modi and Union Home Minister Amitbhai Shah who know Gujarat better than me and who are more capable in taking final decisions even now as to who should be given tickets in the forthcoming Assembly elections”. When it comes to sharing credit, he does it generously by asserting that it is not him who is responsible for the consecutive victory of the BJP in by-elections or self-governing bodies but the grass root level BJP worker who toils to see the lotus bloom.
While C R Paatil gives complete credit to PM Modi and Amit Shah, he says it is also because of grass root level workers that his BJP has become the biggest political party in the world. Mr Paatil told Vo! that in the forthcoming assembly elections the BJP would imbibe technology with its page pramukh scheme and ensure that every seat they win, has more than a 50,000 victory margin.
Commenting on C R Paatil, known political analyst Ghanshyam Shah says it is undeniable that the man is a repository of energy and undiluted enthusiasm. Till two years back he was just one of the 26 MPs of Gujarat and now he has established himself as a distinguished leader. Also, he does not come from any political dynasty and is a self-made man. Sr Shah says C R definitely enjoys the blessings of New Delhi at the moment and if he continues to receive it, he would definitely be a serious contender for the chief ministerial post in Gujarat. Vibes of India did not discuss this issue with C R Paatil.