The Narendra Modi government’s cabinet reshuffle at the Centre saw the induction of three MPs from Gujarat as junior ministers and the dropping of two existing ministers. On the brink of a crucial assembly election in 2017, the first after Modi’s elevation as prime minister, this is being seen as an attempt to give adequate weightage to the Patidar community, fair representation to the ‘rival’ camps of chief minister Anandiben Patel and BJP president Amit Shah while balancing the caste equation in the state.
Caste will be the game-changer in the 2017 assembly elections, say political pundits.
Two of the new ministers — Parshottam Rupala and Mansukh Mandaviya — are Rajya Sabha MPs while Jashwantsinh Bhabhor is a Lok Sabha MP from Dahod. With the latest reshuffle, the total number of ministers from Gujarat at the Centre has gone up to six. Interestingly, out of the six ministers, there are only two elected MPs from the Lok Sabha whereas, the nominated MPs from Rajya Sabha are four.
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The two ministers dropped from Modi’s cabinet are Lok Sabha MPs Mohan Kundariya and Mansukh Vasava. Kundariya was Minister of State for Agriculture and Vasava was MoS Tribal Affairs.
The inclusion of Rupala and Mandaviya – both Patidars from Saurashtra region – is a clear sign of giving voice to the Patidar community which is the core of BJP’s vote bank in Gujarat and which has been in revolt for the past one year with demands for reservation.
Belonging to the Kadva faction of the Patidar community, Rupala is believed to be an Amit Shah loyalist, who was elected to the Rajya Sabha only last month.
Mandaviya, 44, is a Leuva Patidar from Bhavnagar district of Saurashtra. He is considered to be an Anandiben Patel loyalist who was part of the team that worked to contain the Patidar quota stir.
Two major factions of Patidar community in Gujarat – Leuva and Kadva- are rivals and have different reigning deities. Last year, Patidar quota agitation leader Hardik Patel – a Kadva Patidar from north Gujarat region – had drawn flak from Leuva Patels when in a massive rally at Ahmedabad he only hailed Goddess Umiya, Kadva’s deity, and not Goddess Khodal, deity of Leuva Patels. The issue had even threatened to jeopardise the agitation.
Inspite of the strong representation of the Patidar community in the Anandiben Patel government with six MLAs being ministers, the government had burnt its bridges with the community and failed to contain the agitation.
Although the new inductions are biased towards representation from the Saurashtra region, Mandaviya’s inclusion in the cabinet is believed to be an attempt to strike a balance not only between Leuva and Kadva Patidars, but also the Shah and Anandiben camps in Gujarat.
Bhabhor, 49, is a first time MP from the tribal dominated Dahod constituency of Central Gujarat. He seems a replacement of another tribal leader from south Gujarat, Mansukh Vasava, who was dropped from the cabinet because of his frequent representations for tribals. He had also threatened to resign if his problems for the community were not addressed, say sources.
With exclusion of Vasava from the cabinet, there is no representation of south Gujarat in the union cabinet which might be addressed in the party reorganisation plan by Shah on the anvil in Gujarat.