Three-time MP from Navsari, Chandrakant Raghunath Paatil, popularly known as CR Paatil, became the first non-Gujarati to be appointed president of state unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Monday. Paatil takes over from Jitu Vaghani, whose tenure was due to end.
BJP national president JP Nadda sprang a surprise when he announced Paatil’s name Monday afternoon as he seemed nowhere in the reckoning in the party circles.
Paatil, who was in Gandhinagar since Sunday night told The Indian Express, “I am happy that the party has placed such a huge responsibility on my shoulders… I will definitely fulfil their wishes and make the party stronger. My first task is the upcoming by-elections (to the eight assembly seats in the state) and also all the municipal corporation elections, district panchayat, and taluka panchayat elections. I have to work harder in coming days.”
Chief Minister Vijay Rupani welcomed the appointment and said Paatil was a leader who had “risen from the ranks” and an MP who won the Lok Sabha elections last year “with the highest margin”.
Of the 12 BJP state unit presidents in Gujarat since its foundation in 1980 when former CM Keshubhai Patel was the party chief, five were from the Patidar community, including Vaghani. Paatil comes close, being from the agrarian Kunbi Paatil community from Maharashtra, who also call themselves Patel. His appointment marks the re-emphasis of the BJP in the South Gujarat region after 1991, when late Surat MP Kashiram Rana was its state unit president. He later became a Union minister.
Known as a “troubleshooter”, Paatil, 65, was born in Pimpri Akaraut village in Jalgaon, from where his father Raghunath migrated to Surat and joined the police constabulary. Paatil was trained at the Industrial Training Institute after Class 10 and followed in his father’s footsteps to join the police force. He quit as a constable later.
His experience as surveillance staff of constabulary “gives him the edge to judge a crisis and react”, according to former colleagues in the police force, who said that he was last posted in the Salabatpura police station.
Before joining politics full time, Paatil ran textile businesses, running a dyeing and printing mill called Nagina Dyeing, and buying Ashish Dyeing unit, both in Pandesara.
Paatil owes his induction into the BJP to the late Rana in 1989 from where he climbed up the ladder. He was made president of Surat city BJP unit in 1990, and was later appointed chairman of Gujarat Alkalies and Chemical Limited (GACL), a PSU of the Gujarat government. He has also been chairman of GIDC.
Paatil was first given the ticket from Navsari seat in 2009 and later in 2014 and in 2019. He was also given the charge of the parliamentary elections in Surat city. In 2017, Paatil was given charge of 16 assembly seats in Surat, when the BJP was losing ground following the Patidar quota agitation. And BJP won on 14 of them.
Considered close to Prime minister Narendra Modi, Paatil organised a massive congregation of North Indian migrants in Surat ahead of the 2014 general elections presided by Modi as well as election campaigns in Bihar, Karnataka and Uttar Pradesh. Paatil currently is in charge of Modi’s constituency of Varanasi in UP and the BJP co-incharge of Bihar.
Paatil’s appointment from the migrant powered constituency of Surat, is also being seen as a strategy for the upcoming by-polls, the Bihar state assembly elections due in October, and the local body elections in Gujarat due in December. Paatil has also been in charge of assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, and Maharashtra.
BJP MP of Surat, Darshana Jardosh said, “After long, Surat has got justice as it has got leadership in the state administrative body of the BJP. We are happy with (Paatil’s) appointment and we will work hard with him. His hard work and consistency took him to such an important post.”
Surat city BJP president Nitin Bhaijyawala said, “We accept the party high command’s decision… The party will definitely progress under Paatil’s leadership. In our party, all the leaders and workers are equal… He is aware of the politics of South Gujarat and now he will understand the politics of Central Gujarat, North Gujarat and Saurashtra.”
Paatil is the eldest of four children. Two of his brothers Prakash and Sanjay, and sister Surekha also live in Surat. Of Paatil’s three daughters, Bhavini is sarpanch of Mohadi village in Dhule district of Maharashtra, and Dharti is an elected member of the Dhule district panchayat, while the third daughter Dharmishta is a homemaker settled in Maharashtra. Paatil’s son Jignesh who looks after his real estate business and stays with him in Surat.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines