State Minister for industry and power, Saurabh Patel, one of the contenders for Chief Minister, said on Thursday that he was not in the race to be Narendra Modi’s successor. Busy overseeing arrangements for the party’s imminent “victory rally” on Friday, which will include a 15-minute public address by Modi in the city, Patel shrugs off any chance of him taking up the top job in the state. He was speaking to The Indian Express in the midst of preparations for probably his biggest political event.
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On the roadside across fortified polytechnic college, where the poll ballots have been safely tucked away, Patel gives out precise instructions to the event organiser for the Friday celebrations, mincing no words about the perfection he expects. He instructs that an LED screen must be set up outside the counting station so that people can get the updates for the much-awaited poll results.
After a quick lunch at the GEB Guest House, Patel attends another meeting with VMC officials to discuss the requirements of Modi’s spontaneous victory address on Friday. Clearly, the man who managed the Vadodara election campaign in Modi’s absence is not yet done.
Patel, who has been seen as one of Modi’s successors, given his suave mannerism, acceptance within the party and his role in putting the state on the development map, downplays the prospect of becoming the next CM.
Asked if he would accept the job if offered, he laughs, saying, “I am a very contended man who has keenly completed all responsibilities handed over to me. Whatever I have been asked to do, I have done. But I am not in that race (for the CM). I am not even looking for it.”
Not just that, expecting bypolls soon, political whispers in the city are also touting Patel to be the next Vadodara MP, should Modi vacate the seat and choose Varanasi post LS polls results.
But Patel says it is important to think “positive”. Speaking about preparations for the Vadodara bypolls, Patel says, “It is too early to say that there will be bypolls in Vadodara because Modiji has a good 15-days time to decide what he wants to do between Vadodara and Varanasi. The issue will be discussed in the party’s Parliamentary board meeting on May 17, where senior leaders will contemplate Modiji’s next move over his two seats. As all Vadodara people would want it, Modiji may also choose Vadodara.”
Within the party, leaders say that the picture for the bypolls is clear. Ever since Patel was handed over the charge of Modi’s campaign in the constituency, while Modi concentrated on countrywide rallies, other contenders who had staked claim to the Lok Sabha ticket have been left behind in the race for bypolls.
Patel says Friday’s results and the government formation are priority as of now. “We know we will comfortably make a government and Modiji is the next Prime Minister of the country. Our target has been 272+ with allies and we will easily make it. However, the entire process will take its own time as leaders will sit down and discuss important aspects of government formation. The Congress has already conceded defeat and so, no other coalition has a chance this time,” Patel says.
The party unit, which has been speaking of a record victory margin for Modi in Vadodara, is confident of making it. Patel says, “Modiji will win from Vadodara by a margin of 5 lakh votes.
We are confident of that estimate. In fact, Vadodara is going to be the focal point for days to come because of the result it will bring out. Modiji’s decision to deliver his first public address in Vadodara after winning from here, although a short one, is significant.
His decision to come to Vadodara post-counting is also part of his gratitude to the city. We have accordingly planned a grand victory celebration which is also well- deserved. He could not decide on coming down earlier because being the Prime Minister in-waiting, he needs to consult leaders in Delhi to understand when he is required to be there. He will continue with the formalities required after his Vadodara visit.”