Hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi virtually inaugurated the Rs 200 crore Sardardham Complex built by the Patidars on Saturday, Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani was sent packing, sparking off speculations that the BJP will have to return to a Patel to head the government.
The top contenders being discussed as Rupani’s replacements are all Patidars: Deputy chief minister Nitin Patel, a Lakshadweep Administrator and former minister Praful Patel, party general secretary and former minister Gordhan Jhadaphia and Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya. It was Modi’s legendary sense of timing that was apparently at work and not a coincidence that Rupani got the boot when two key union ministers, Mansukh Mandaviya and Parshottam Rupala, both Patels, were in Ahmedabad attending the Sardardham event under the shadow of a 50-foot bronze statue of Sardar Patel.
The Sardhardham event was held in the backdrop of immediate social media protests by Patidar youth organisations who expressed their anger that the BJP would hijack their event while the government had acted against the interests of the community.
Their grievances include the government’s reneging on its promise to pay adequate compensation and provide jobs to at least one member of the 14 Patidar families who lost their sons during the agitation and on the assurance to withdraw cases against youngsters involved in the Hardik Patel agitation.
A few days earlier, the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti and Shri Sardar Patel Seva Dal (SSPSD), who were associated with Hardik Patel earlier, were preparing to convene a conference of all denominations of Patidars cutting across political lines to remind the ruling party of its promises to the community. “It is not wrong to demand benefits for the community when the political climate is conducive,” SSPSD president Lalji Patel said. The organisations were planning to ask the government to resolve the pending issues of the Patidars if they want votes in the State Assembly elections next year.“They only come to us during the elections; we want them to first resolve our issues,” said a Patidar leader.
More significant was a series of joint meetings between the two estranged Leuva and Kadva Patidars, which itself was unusual, in June where they unanimously resolved to take it up with the BJP leadership that Gujarat’s Chief Minister must be Patidars. As many as six powerful organisations of the community, including the biggest Khodaldham and Umiya Trusts.
Naresh Patel, the president of Shree Khodaldham Trust, had famously told media persons that their meetings deliberated on the need to have a Patidar as the chief minister.
“The Patidar community is largest in Gujarat, and issues about how Patidars can be given importance in administration and politics is being discussed among the Patels. After Keshubhai Patel, we felt there was a vacuum.” Significantly, the Patidar trusts also felt that the Aam Aadmi Party could be a good option to look for and praised the party too.