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Saturday, September 18, 2021

BJP battling infighting, new Gujarat Cabinet waits another day

Sources said that with Paatil setting strict norms for distribution of tickets in the local body elections, including that candidates who have done three terms will not be repeated, “there is fear among the current MLAs and ministers that this would be the end of their political careers”.

Written by Parimal A Dabhi , Gopal B Kateshiya | Gandhinagar, Rajkot |
Updated: September 16, 2021 10:33:58 am
New Gujarat CM Bhupendra Patel (second from right) is greeted by outgoing CM Vijay Rupani in Gandhinagar Sunday. (Express photo by Nirmal Harindran)

THE swearing-in of the new Bhupendra Patel-led government that was scheduled for Wednesday afternoon was put off to Thursday, reportedly after several ministers of the outgoing government protested on being informed that they would not find a berth in the new Cabinet.

BJP state unit president C R Paatil had told The Indian Express on Wednesday morning that the swearing-in of the new Council of Ministers “is almost final between 2 pm and 4 pm”.

This, after the party gave indications on Tuesday that Thursday would be the date for the oath-taking. By afternoon, posters had come up at the Raj Bhavan venue, bearing Wednesday’s date for the ceremony.

However, until Wednesday afternoon, neither the General Administration Department (GAD) nor the Roads and Buildings Department that would have handled the logistics of such an event had any official intimation about the advancing of the date, sources in the two departments claimed.

By 3.30 pm, when The Indian Express team visited Raj Bhavan, supporters of Limbdi MLA Kiritsinh Rana had reached from Surendranagar on hearing that their MLA would be among the new ministers. However, by then, the posters at the venue were being pulled down.

Minutes later, the official handle of the Chief Minister’s Office tweeted that the swearing-in of the new Cabinet would be on Thursday at 1.30 pm. The post was deleted and tweeted again with an added information about Raj Bhavan being the venue.

An MLA, who was a minister in the outgoing Cabinet headed by Vijay Rupani, said some of them protested with the state leadership after they learned that they were not going to find a berth in the new Council of ministers. “All the senior ministers were to be dropped. Not a single one was to be retained in the new Council. Therefore, we had to raise our voice,” said the former minister.

Sources said that with Paatil setting strict norms for distribution of tickets in the local body elections, including that candidates who have done three terms will not be repeated, “there is fear among the current MLAs and ministers that this would be the end of their political careers”.

A BJP MLA from Saurashtra said no meeting of the BJP legislature party was called or scheduled. “We had instructions to stay in our MLA quarters in Gandhinagar from September 15 onwards, though no meeting of the party organisation or the legislature party was to be convened. As per convention, MLAs are intimated as to who will be included in the Cabinet a short while before the swearing-in ceremony. Such a list was not circulated today,” said the MLA.

A top source in the BJP said, “Top Central and state leaders called all the outgoing Cabinet ministers one after another for one-on-one meetings on Tuesday afternoon and informed them that as part of a formula, they would not find a place in the new Council of ministers.” On Wednesday, the Ministers of State were summoned and were told the same thing, the source said.

Another top party leader in Gandhinagar said that the date was changed because “the mahurat was not proper (on Wednesday)”. Asked if there were some people who were upset, this leader said, “Even if they are, will it be tolerated?”

Asked about the reported protest, a senior party office bearer said, “I do not think there was any significant protest by anybody. And it is not politically wise to stage any protest at this point when elections are due in around a year. The postponement was certainly not due to any such protest.”

Another party leader said some MLAs had sought time for their families to be able to travel for the ceremony and that might have been the reason for it to be put off.

A office bearer of the party said on condition of anonymity, “The postponement of the swearing-in ceremony is nothing but a miscalculation. The leadership must have thought that the selection of names would be complete by afternoon. But there are caste and regional balances to be kept in mind, and that takes time. After realising that the names would not be ready, they must have ordered the postponement.”

Paatil could not be contacted for a comment on why the plan changed.

(INPUTS FROM KAMAAL SAIYED IN SURAT)

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