Updated: September 17, 2021 2:17:13 pm
While it might seem that the BJP has taken a huge risk by bringing in a completely new Council of Ministers in Gujarat, 14 months ahead of the Assembly elections, party insiders pointed to the fact that the protests within, which ostensibly caused the postponement of the oath-taking ceremony Wednesday, had already calmed down.
Senior BJP leaders cited this to hail Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “bold experiment” in his home state, and another example of him as a “strong leader”.
Sources told The Indian Express that the original plan was to drop a few ministers, but the party then decided to go the whole hog, thus preempting any rebellion from those dropped. “Sookhe ke saath geela bhi jal gaya (the good were sacrificed with the bad),” is how a senior leader described the decision.
The 24-member ministry headed by first-time MLA Bhupendra Patel is younger and inexperienced in administration, as compared to former state governments, but does a careful balancing of castes, regions and factions. And, it is a “gamble” that might work, said one of the leaders who had been a minister since 2002 when Modi was Chief Minister, and was dropped in Thursday’s reshuffle. “Firstly, with this, the anti-incumbency factor is neutralised. The next three months will be the real test of the new ministers, on how the public perceives you, whether their work gets done or not,” the BJP leader added.
Another senior party leader said that the overhaul was necessary. “Firstly, there was need for parivartan (change), second, you need to give a chance to new people and finally, only Narendra Modi can do this. He is the only one who has the courage to do this bold experiment, and people like such strong leaders.”
Although the BJP had its worst performance since 1995 in the 2017 Assembly elections (winning 99 of 182 seats), after replacing Anandiben Patel with Vijay Rupani as Chief Minister in a similar move, party leaders say the circumstances have changed.
A senior BJP leader said, “Look at the Congress. It has been five months since they lost the local body elections, when their leaders took responsibility and stepped down. They have not even been able to find new state leaders. That is the difference between us and the Congress.”
Besides, Rupani fought the 2017 elections in the wake of the Patidar quota agitation and the anger over the flogging of Dalits in Una. Those factors are not in play now.
One of the first things new CM Bhupendra Patel did after taking over was to reach out to those hit by the flood-like situation in Saurashtra region.
BJP leaders said they were not worried about Patel’s handling of a possible third wave of Covid-19 either. The Rupani government had come under severe criticism during the second wave.
While then Deputy CM Nitin Patel held the Health portfolio at the time, it is now with three-time Visnagar MLA Rushikesh Patel. But the source of the BJP’s confidence is the new person at the helm of the Health Ministry at the Centre. “We have Mansukhbhai Mandaviya (a Rajya Sabha MP from Gujarat) already. Besides our government at the Centre and state has put systems in place to handle the third wave,” a leader said.
Among those who backed the changes was Bhupendrasinh Chudasama, now out as education minister. “Our party does as it says. Those in the organisation get to work in the government and those in the government should work in the organisation.”
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