Bhupendra Patel was the BJP high command’s surprise pick as the Gujarat Chief Minister when it decided to replace the then CM Vijay Rupani with him in September last year, barely one-year-three-months ahead of the Assembly polls.
The 60-year-old first-time MLA from Ahmedabad, Bhupendra Patel has spent most of his political career in urban local bodies as the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC) Standing Committee chairman as well as the Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority (AUDA) head. The BJP, which has been ruling Gujarat for over 25 years continuously, had just managed to get a simple majority when it won 99 of the total 182 seats in the 2017 Assembly polls.
Tasked by the BJP leadership with ensuring a “glitch-free” governance and steer the saffron dispensation smoothly through the crucial Gujarat Assembly polls slated for December this year, Patel, a low-profile leader, has his task cut out.
On October 1, C R Paatil, the high-profile state BJP chief, said Patel will be “repeated” for another chief ministerial term as he has done “good work”.
Patel’s one-year tenure at the helm of the Gujarat government has been marked with several notable developments and rows, which include two ministers, Rajendra Trivedi and Purnesh Modi, being recently stripped of important portfolios, agitations by government employees on various issues, paper leak of a government recruitment exam, cattle being hit by the lumpy skin disease in 26 of the state’s 33 districts, deaths of 42 people in a hooch tragedy, a record 21000-kg drug seizure from the Mundra port, the remission of 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano gangrape case, and the scrapping of a bill meant to control the stray cattle menace following strong protests by Maldharis (cattle rearers) against it.
According to his election affidavit, Patel has got a diploma in civil engineering and runs a construction firm formerly called Vihan Associates, which is managed by his son and son-in-law. The firm has now been renamed as Ansh Construction.
A Kadva Patidar leader, Patel is believed to have been elevated to the top state post by the BJP leadership to pacify the agitating Patidar community, which is considered to be the party’s core vote bank. He was considered to be a loyalist of UP Governor and ex-Gujarat CM, Anandiben Patel, and had campaigned for her in the 2012 Gujarat elections.
Patel, who is from Dariapur area of old Ahmedabad, is the first Gujarat CM from Ahmedabad city. His Ghatlodia Assembly seat is part of the Gandhinagar Lok Sabha constituency which is currently represented by Union home minister Amit Shah.
Patel is perceived to have an image of a non-controversial and committed BJP leader. He is also considered to be a spiritual person, who is a follower of Simandhar Swami, a living tirthankara.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who during his frequent visits to his home state Gujarat often projects the success of the “double engine sarkar” (both the Centre and the state government being ruled by the BJP), has described Patel as a “Mrudu ane Makkam (soft and firm)” CM.