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Thursday, July 29, 2021

In ‘biggest representation to Gujarat’, Narendra Modi balances caste, regional equations

The portfolios assigned to the new ministers and new assignments of elevated ministers are also expected to help address issues in the state related to these sectors.

Written by Parimal A Dabhi , Gopal B Kateshiya | Ahmedabad/rajkot |
Updated: July 8, 2021 10:44:35 am
A source from Gujarat unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said, “This reshuffle has given unprecedented representation to Gujarat since independence." (Reuters)

GUJARAT got its largest representation in the central ministry with Prime Minister Narendra Modi working out a fine math to induct new colleagues, while balancing caste and regional equations within the state ahead of the assembly elections next year.

The portfolios assigned to the new ministers and new assignments of elevated ministers are also expected to help address issues in the state related to these sectors.

A source from Gujarat unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) said, “This reshuffle has given unprecedented representation to Gujarat since independence. Seven ministers were never taken from Gujarat earlier in the Union council of ministers (counting Minister for External Affairs S Jaishankar as a rajya sabha MP from Gujarat). BJP’s preparations for 2022 Assembly elections and 2024 Parliament elections are reflected in the reshuffle. All the regions and electorally important castes of the state have been covered.”

Union Minister for Home and now Co-operation, Amit Shah, who is Gandhinagar MP, represents North Gujarat; Darshana Jardosh, a Brahmin married to an OBC from South Gujarat; Devusinh Chauhan, a Kshatriya from Central Gujarat; and Dr Mahendra Munjpara, Parsottam Rupala and Mansukh Mandaviya representing Koli, Kadva Patidar and Leuva Patidar respectively, represent Saurashtra region.

“Tribals form a significant part of the electorate in Gujarat. There is no tribal in the Union cabinet from Gujarat. A day before the reshuffle, Mangubhai Patel – a tribal from Gujarat – was appointed as Governor of Madhya Pradesh,” said a party source, commenting on the caste-balance. Patel is from Navsari’s Kukna tribe, also found in Maharashtra.

Another BJP insider said, “The reshuffle is clear preparation of 2022 Assembly elections and 2024 Lok Sabha elections. Our party has been working for the uplift of the SC/STs, OBCs and the underprivileged. The induction of three OBC ministers (from Gujarat) justifies that.”
The PM has inducted three new state-rank ministers from Gujarat, while elevating two state-rank ministers to cabinet rank. Former minister of state (independent charge) of ports, shipping and waterways, Mandaviya, 49, also held the portfolio of chemicals and fertilisers and has now been elevated to cabinet rank in charge of health as well as chemicals and fertilisers. Parsottam Rupala was elevated from MoS panchayati raj, agriculture and farmers welfare, Union minister for fisheries, animal husbandry and dairying.

The three state rank ministers inducted in the council of ministers are Darshana Jardosh (60) from Surat who is MoS textiles and railways, Devusinh Chauhan (56) from Kheda who is MoS Communications and Mahendra Munjpara (52), a practising physician from Surendranagar who is MoS women and child development and ministry of AYUSH.

While Jardosh and Chauhan have risen from the ranks, Munjpara has no political background and won his first election in 2019, defeating Congress’s Somabhai Patel, a veteran Koli leader. Kolis form a large chunk of the OBC votebank, mainly residing along the Saurashtra and South Gujarat coast and Munjpara is a Chunvaliya Koli.

In 2017, after its poor show in the assembly elections, BJP inducted former Congress leader Kunvarji Bavaliya, a Koli from Rajkot, into the Vijay Rupani government. In 2017, the party won only 99 of the 182 assembly seats, its lowest since the BJP came to power in 1995, while the Congress won 77. However, many Congress MLAs later quit and switched sides, like Bavaliya.

Recently, state minister Parsottam Solanki, also a Koli leader from Bhavnagar, had made noise that fishermen affected by Cyclone Tauktae was not being compensated and the Rupani government was “not bothered” about them. Solanki, who often critcises the incumbent BJP government, has never faced action.

Jardosh, a three-time MP from Surat, is believed to be very close to Union Minister Smriti Irani, and now with her textile portfolio, will be able to address the issues of the industry, the hub for which is Surat. A commerce graduate, she started her career as a worker in the BJP and went up to become president of BJP Mahila Morcha of Surat city in 1999 and later got elected as a corporator in Surat Municipal Corporation in 2000. She first contested her Lok Sabha election in 2009 and got reelected in 2014 and 2019.

Chauhan represents the Kheda Lok Sabha constituency of Central Gujarat and is a Kshatriya, a community listed as OBC in Gujarat. He holds a diploma in electrical Engineering from the Government Polytechnic College of Porbandar and was an engineer at All India Radio before he resigned to join politics in 2002.

In 2007, he won his first assembly polls and was elected from Matar Assembly Constituency. In 2009, he contested the Kheda Lok Sabha constituency but lost by 742 votes. In 2012 Assembly polls, he retained his seat as MLA of Matar. He was elected as MP from Kheda Lok Sabha Constituency in 2014 and got re-elected to the Lok Sabha from the same constituency.

Munjpara’s entry into the big league electoral politics had come at a time when sitting BJP MP from Surendranagar, Devji Fate-para, was embroiled in court cases and Somabhai Patel, among the tallest Koli leaders of Gujarat, having defected to Congress a decade ago. A well-known physician of the district, Dr Munjpara, who holds an MD (general medicines) had not contested any election before that nor had he held any office in BJP party organisation.

Like Patel and Fatepara, Dr Munjpara also hails from Chuvaliya Koli sub-caste group of electorally influential Koli community. And in his maiden foray into electoral politics in 2019, Munjpara scored a resounding victory over Patel, the old warhorse who was then with Congress, despite Congress holding six of seven Assembly constituencies falling in Surendran-agar Parliamentary seat.

Rupala (66) and Mandaviya (49) have been old confidantes of PM Modi and they belong to the powerful Patidar community. Though not in as large numbers as OBCs, Patidars are heavyweights in Gujarat and have been loyal supporters of the BJP till the Hardik Patel-led quota agitation in 2015 fragmented the votes giving an advantage to the Congress.

Lately, the Patidars especially in Surat, have shown leanings towards the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) which has Hardik’s former associate, Gopal Italia, as its state chief.

Rupala belongs to Amreli, a constituency that has turned into a Congress stronghold after he lost the seat to Congress’s Paresh Dhanani in 2002. His elevation as Cabinet minister marks a high since he was elected MLA from Amreli Assembly constituency in 1991 and went on to win twice again. Though Rupala has not contested a direct election since his defeat in 2002, he remains a powerful orator who draws big crowds at election rallies, and will be expected to help BJP win this constituency back in 2022.

Mandaviya who rose from the ranks, hails from a farmer family in a village in Bhavnagar district. He joined the ABVP in 1992 and then was inducted into Yuva Morcha. Youngest in the lot of ministers from Gujarat, Mandaviya is known for connecting with people through padyatras, having done three since 2004.

The political science graduate had contested his maiden and only Assembly election in 2002. He joined the Union cabinet in 2016, as junior minister of road transport and highways, shipping, chemicals and fertilisers. It was during his tenure that Pradhan Mantri Jan Aushadhi Kendras, the pharmacy stores selling generic drugs at affordable rates were launched.

After the BJP retained power in 2019, Mandaviya retained his berth in the Union cabinet as a junior minister but with independent charge of ports, shipping and waterways and MoS in the ministry of chemicals, fertilsers.

Chief Minister Vijay Rupani thanked PM Modi for the inclusion of three new MPs from Gujarat into the Council of Ministers, said an official release. Rupani congratulated the three new ministers along with Rupala and Mandaviya who have been elevated to the cabinet rank, it added. Rupani also expressed expectation that the newly inducted ministers will contribute towards the overall development of Gujarat.

State BJP president CR Paatil also congratulated all the MPs from Gujarat inducted into the Union cabinet and expressed confidence that they, along with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, will take India to new heights.

(Inputs from Aditi Raja in Vadodara and Kamaal Saiyed in Surat)

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