The state government Thursday announced a day’s mourning and suspended all official functions and election campaigns following the death of former chief minister and MP Keshubhai Patel. The state Cabinet, which met on the day, also passed a resolution condoling the loss.
Patel, 92, passed away Thursday following a prolonged illness. He had recovered from the coronavirus infection recently and was rushed to a hospital in Ahmedabad in the morning following health complications. His body, wrapped in the Tricolour, was brought back to Gandhinagar, where his final rites were performed at a civic-run crematorium around 5 pm. He was also given a Guard of Honour.
Chief Minister Vijay Rupani cut short a campaign at Gadhada in Bhavnagar and rushed to Gandhinagar to meet Patel’s family.
Deputy chief minister Nitin Patel, among the first to arrive after Keshubhai’s body was brought to Gandhinagar around 1 pm, said, “His (Patel’s) tenure was marked by development in Gujarat.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who is scheduled to visit the state to inaugurate the seaplane service Friday, is also expected to visit Patel’s family to pay condolences.
In a video message on Thursday, Modi said Keshubhai’s death was a “like losing a father figure”.
“I kept in touch with him even after becoming the prime minister and would go to take his blessings and meet him whenever possible… He looked happy when we last spoke during the virtual meeting of the Somnath temple trust… It was a intimate relationship of 45 years… Several incidents are flashing before me… every karyakarta (party worker), like me, are sad today,” he said.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah tweeted, “While in the BJP, he (Patel) played an important role to strengthen the organisation.”
Patel’s one-time cabinet colleague and Karnataka Governor Vajubhai Vala said, “Since the foundation of the Jan Sangh, he (Patel) was a very active worker in Rajkot. He began his career as a councilor of the Rajkot municipality and served the people as an active leader of opposition in the civic body. In the Jan Sangh days, Keshubhai was the only worker who was mobilising farmers. He was among the three prominent Jan Sangh workers in Saurashtra, besides Chiman Shukla and Suryakant Acharya. Keshubhai was popular among farmers and rural masses,” Vala said in an audio message.
Senior BJP leader and state Education Minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama, who had worked with Patel for almost five decades, described him as everyone’s “go-to man”. “Before 1995, when the party (BJP) was in opposition, Keshubhai was sure that the BJP would come to power in 1995… During these years, the state was reeling under water scarcity (and) Keshubhai took a team of senior leaders, including Ashok Bhatt, Suresh Mehta and me to Israel to study how the country had tackled the issue and if it could be replicated here,” he said.
The first BJP chief minister in Gujarat, state BJP president CR Paatil said, Patil had worked hard for the party even before it came into the power in the state.
“He worked hard and this led the BJP to gain power in Gujarat. He was also a farmers’ leader and issues related to farmers were his first priority.”
Former mayor of Surat and BJP leader Fakirbhai Chauhan (82) said, “Due to the internal conflicts in the party, we left the BJP in 2012 and formed the Gujarat Parivartan Party. We worked closely but as there is no acceptance of a third party in Gujarat, our party had not made any major success in the assembly elections. Later, time came and we were again invited back to the BJP… Before joining the BJP, we took the
permission from Keshubhai Patel, but he did never returned to BJP and instead retired from politics.”
Gujarat Congress working president Hardik Patel, who visited Patel’s residence in Gandhinagar, said Keshubhai encouraged him during the Patidar agitation.
“The 6.5 crore people of the state who has seen progress under his leadership will all be sad today. Under Keshubhai’s leadership, Gujarat’s villages were taken care of… During the andolan, when we used to meet him, Patel would always say it is good work,” the Congress leader said.
Governor Acharya Devvrat, Union Agriculture Minister Purushottam Rupala, Union Minister for Shipping Mansukh Mandaviya, and former Gujarat chief minister Suresh Mehta were among the leaders who arrived at Keshubhai’s residence.
Among businessmen, Adani Group chairman Gautam Adani and Banas Dairy chairman and BJP leader Shanker Chaudhary paid homage to the departed leader.
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