The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is never short of ambition and an election that’s not driven to win. Even as the BJP rules Gujarat comfortably since 1995, except for a brief exception in 1997, the party is very clear. The chief ministerial chair is not important. The party is.
Ahead of the crucial Assembly elections in the next 15 months in 2022, Gujarat’s Chief Minister Vijay Rupani submitted his resignation on September 11, calling it “An act of will and that the BJP has always practised this strategy for the benefit of the State”; the BJP backstory of Gujarat and its’ chief ministers are worth a visit.
Keshubhai Patel – March 14, 1995, – October 21, 1995 – seven months
The ‘grand old man’ of Gujarat and a stalwart of the BJP who helped build and expand the organisation in Gujarat, Keshubhai Patel went to head the first party-led government in the state in 1995. He was the state CM from March to October 1995.
Patel was instrumental in mentoring a generation of BJP leaders including PM Narendra Modi. Modi had succeeded him in Gujarat as the chief minister and later went on to become the prime minister.
Hailing from a modest family of farmers, Patel became Gujarat CM in 1995, but his tenure was cut short due to rebellion in the party ranks.
In 1995, when the BJP formed the government with a landslide victory, the credit was given to factors namely – the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s massive groundwork, Keshubhai’s mass appeal and Shankarsinh Vaghela’s tenure as BJP’s state president.
Vaghela became a prominent Kshatriya leader of the BJP in the state. And so, when a Patidar leader was elected as Chief Minister of Gujarat and not him, it led him to the now-famous Khajuraho rebellion. The high command chose Suresh Chandra Mehta as the next CM to placate Vaghela.
After the Khajuraho rebellion, Vaghela lasted only 12 months as the CM.
Suresh Chandra Mehta – October 21, 1995 – September 19, 1995 – 11 months
Mehta was the 11th Chief Minister of Gujarat from the BJP and governed for 11 months in toto. Mehta was elected to Gujarat Vidhan Sabha from Mandvi in the Kachchh area in 1975 (with Jana Sangh), 1985, 1990, 1995, 1998. He lost the seat in the 2002 elections.
He served as the cabinet minister when Keshubhai Patel formed the government in the 1995 assembly elections. Keshubhai Patel resigned in October 1995 following the revolt of his colleague Shankersinh Vaghela and consequently, Mehta was sworn in as the Chief Minister in October 1995 and he served till September 1996. However, BJP split as the Rashtriya Janata Party was formed by Vaghela. Mehta resigned from the post of the CM and the President’s rule was imposed from September 19, 1996 – October 23, 1996. He again served as the industry cabinet minister under Patel when the BJP returned to power in the 1998 assembly elections.
Shankarsinh Vaghela – October 23, 1996 – October 27, 1997 – 12 months
Vaghela joined the RSS a decade after Keshubhai Patel did and was one of Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s top strategists at one point. But political aspirations were the stronger force. Vaghela split from the BJP in the late 90s and launched his own party, the Rashtriya Janata Party. His sole purpose was to become Chief Minister of Gujarat.
But Vaghela did not win enough seats to form a government following which he took outside support of the Congress party and then became the Chief Minister of Gujarat.
Keshubhai Patel, back to power – March 4, 1998 – October 6, 2001
Although he was re-elected as the CM of Gujarat, with an absolute majority.
What led to Keshubhai’s resignation?
The earthquake caused truant in Gujarat but it also caused turbulence in Keshubhai Patel’s tenure as Chief Minister. In his second tenure of four years, Gujarat faced a devastating cyclone in June 1998 in which thousands of people died, severe water scarcity in 1999 and 2000 due to deficient rains, and the Kutch earthquake in 2001, which also claimed thousands of lives.
Narendra Modi, with the help of his then advisor LK Advani, staged a political coup and ensured that Patel submitted his resignation.
Patel was a member of the Gujarat Legislative Assembly six times and a one-time member of Parliament. He joined the RSS as a pracharak (worker) at a very young age. He started his political career as a worker for Jan Sangh and was one of the leaders who later helped establish the Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) after the Emergency.
He breathed his last at the age of 92 in Ahmedabad on October 29, 2020.
Narendra Modi – October 7, 2001 – May 22, 2014
Prime Minister Narendra Modi was Gujarat’s Chief Minister for two terms. Born and raised in Vadnagar, a small town in northeastern Gujarat, Modi completed his secondary education there and is said to have helped his father sell tea at the local railway station. He was introduced to the RSS at age eight. Modi left home at age 18 soon after his marriage to Jashodaben Chamanlal, which he publicly acknowledged many decades later. Modi has asserted that he travelled around India for two years, visiting several religious centres. Upon his return to Gujarat in 1971, he became a full-time worker for the RSS. The RSS assigned him to the BJP in 1985 and he held several positions within the party hierarchy until 2001, rising to the rank of general secretary.
Modi was appointed as CM of Gujarat in 2001 due to Keshubhai Patel’s ill-health and poor public image following the earthquake in Bhuj. Modi was elected to the legislative assembly soon after. His policies as chief minister, credited with encouraging economic growth, have received praise. His administration was criticised for failing to significantly improve health, poverty and education indices in the state.
Modi led the BJP in the 2014 general election, which gave the party a majority in the Indian lower house of parliament, the Lok Sabha, the first time for any single party since 1984. The Chief MInister’s chair became redundant after CM Modi became PM Modi. Because thereafter both the chief ministers were rubber stamps of the High Command. Also, sadly all the chief ministers that now come face the eternal reality of being constantly compared with Narendra Modi who undoubtedly was a very good chief minister.
Anandiben Patel – May 22, 2014 – August 5, 2016
After Modi moved to Delhi as Prime Minister of India, he wanted a reliable and loyalist on the CM’s chair in Gujarat. Anandiben Patel was hence, the chosen one.
What led Anandiben to resign?
After her meeting with Narendra Modi, it was believed that Amit Shah and his men were reportedly manoeuvring agitations in the state. This put Anandiben in a tight spot. Her request to the party high command for accepting her resignation came amid protests by Dalits in Gujarat, a few months after there were violent protests by the Patidar community in the state.
Patel first resigned on Facebook. “For the last some time there has been a tradition in the party that those who attain the age of 75, voluntarily retires from the post. I will attain the age of 75 in November,” the state’s first woman chief minister, who succeeded Narendra Modi on May 22, 2014, said in a Facebook post. But sources claimed that age had nothing to do with her resignation.
Anandiben agreed to resign after the party high command caved in to her demand. She wanted her man Nitin Patel to be elected as the Chief Minister of Gujarat.
But in another crucial meeting held thereafter, Amit Shah named Vijay Rupani as the Chief Minister of Gujarat.
Born on November 21, 1941, Anandiben Mafatbhai Patel served as Gujarat CM from 2014 –2016. She was the first woman Chief Minister of Gujarat. On 19 January 2018, she became the Governor of Madhya Pradesh replacing Om Prakash Kohli who was holding additional charges since September 2016.
Currently, she is serving as the Governor of Uttar Pradesh. She has also served as Governor of Madhya Pradesh (additional charge). A member of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) since 1987, Patel was the Cabinet Minister for Education from 2002 to 2007. She was the Cabinet Minister of Road and Building, Revenue, Urban Development and Urban Housing, Disaster Management and Capital Projects in the Government of Gujarat from 2007 to 2014.
Vijay Rupani – August 7, 2016 – December 26, 2017, and then from December 26, 2017 – September 11, 2021
Vijay Rupani first took charge as the Chief Minister on August 7, 2016. And in the year 2017, he took charge as the Chief Minister again. Born on August 2, 1956, in Rangoon, Burma, Rupani started his political career as a student leader. He has been following the ideals of RSS since childhood. He was active in the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad. Along with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, he was also active in the Jana Sangh.
Rupani has been an activist of the party since its inception in 1971. He was also arrested in Bhavnagar, Bhuj Jail during the 1976 crisis. He was also the RSS propagandist from 1978 to 1981. Elected as a member of Rajkot Manpa in 1987 and it can be said that his journey started from here.
He also served as the Chairman of the Water Export Committee and has also been the Chairman of the Standing Committee of the Rajkot Municipal Corporation. He served as the Mayor of Rajkot Manpa from 1996 to 1997. In 1998, he became the department head of Gujarat BJP. He has also been the Chairman of Gujarat Tourism Department in 2006. Vijay Rupani has been a member of the Rajya Sabha from 2006 to 2012. At the same time, Gujarat has been the state president of BJP. He has also served as a cabinet minister of state.
BJP ruling since 1995
Interestingly, BJP, before any major elections or polls at hand, has always remained hopeful and in a buoyant mood. Since it first assumed power in Gujarat in 1995, BJP has constantly piled leaders from the RSS and Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) on prime government positions. Thus, ensuring the policies and programs laid down by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh Parivaar is implemented from the core. Except for a brief period in the late nineties when Shankersinh Vaghela’s RJP and Congress ruled the State, the BJP has its fort well safeguarded in Gujarat.
BJP’s footwork to ensure votes are in their favour has always been their winning streak. Their win during the 1995 assembly elections was not by fluke or a temporary wave. They had started building their base among the OBCs, tribals and Dalits since the 1980s after Congress blindly was following the KHAM theory.
In the 1995 elections, they had a straight head-on with Congress contesting for all the 182 seats. BJP bagged 122 seats out of 182 under Keshubhai Patel’s leadership. This is perhaps a record figure that even CM Modi was not able to break in his two-year tenure till 2014.