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Bhupendra Patel: The quiet, unassuming grassroots party worker who rose to be Chief Minister

Described by PM Modi as "mrudu ane makkam" (soft and firm), the Kadva Patidar candidate is leading by a record margin and is set to take the oath for the second time

Gujarat CM Bhupendra Patel during official release of the party manifesto for Gujarat state polls at Kamalam on Saturday. (Express photo by Nirmal Harindran)

Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel, who is set to take oath for the second time on December 12, has broken his own 2017 record to win his seat, Ghatlodia, where he is leading by a margin of 1,70,276 votes and counting.

Five years ago, the Kadva Patidar BJP leader had won with the highest margin of 1,17,750 votes in the state, breaking the earlier record of his mentor and Uttar Pradesh governor Anandiben Patel, who had won by 1,10,395 votes from Ghatlodia. The Ghatlodia seat in Ahmedabad city has the highest number of voters in Gujarat.

Patel, who is a builder by profession, was brought in as CM in September last year, replacing Vijay Rupani in an audacious move where the BJP also brought in a brand new ministry.

Described by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as “mrudu ane makkam” (soft and firm), Patel is a man of few words, but has taken a firm stand when required. He walked into the CM office at a time when Rajkot and Jamnagar were reeling under floods, and even before his swearing-in, undertook an aerial survey of Jamnagar. But the roadblocks didn’t end there. The swearing-in ceremony of his new team, which was to be held the following day, had to be postponed, reportedly because of protests by certain ministers who were to be dropped.

An IAS officer who was with the just-appointed CM as he met the flood-affected, had told The Indian Express that Patel was “composed and not overwhelmed”, a characteristic that would become an asset in a state over which Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah continue to tower. And thus, the ‘Double Engine Sarkar’ is likely to continue at least till the 2024 Lok Sabha elections.

With the central BJP plucking the first-time MLA from near anonymity and placing him in the hot seat, every move, order and nod of the head of Patel will be keenly watched and scrutinised – both in Delhi and Gandhinagar.

His year-long term saw two ministers stripped of important portfolios months before the election, various agitations by government employees — over pay grade, demand for the implementation of the OPS (Old Pension Scheme), regularisation of contractual recruits, a controversial paper leak of a government recruitment exam, an outbreak of Lumpy Skin Disease that hit cattle in 26 of 33 districts, 42 people dying in a hooch tragedy, a record drug seizure of 21,000 kg from the Mundra port, remission of the 11 convicts of the Bilkis Bano gangrape case, and his government cancelling the controversial stray cattle control bill six months after it was passed by the Assembly to make peace with the maldhari (cattle rearers) community.

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During the protests by his party leaders against handcarts selling non-veg food on the streets, Patel, in a public statement, had maintained that his government had nothing to do with what people ate.

As per his poll affidavit, he has earned 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 is now renamed Ansh Construction.

Patel is a Kadva Patidar who is believed to have been elevated to the top post by the BJP to pacify the agitating Patidar community, who are considered BJP’s core vote bank. He is also the first from Ahmedabad city – from the Dariapur area of old Ahmedabad — who has become the CM of the state. Patel enjoys an image of a committed, clean and non-controversial party man, who does not expect anything from the party. He is also considered to be a deeply spiritual person and is a follower of Simandhar Swami, a living tirthankara.

Engineer, businessman, politician

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As a young man, Patel is known to have helped his father Rajnikant, a professor at LD Engineering College in Ahmedabad, to run a temporary firecracker shop in Dariapur of Ahmedabad’s Walled City area during the festive season. His family lived nearby in Kadva Pol, a close-knit neighbourhood.

After college, Patel worked at a private construction company for around three years. He later launched Vardan Tower, a residential project in the Naranpura area with eight of his college friends.

Like several other Hindu families, the Patels also moved out of the Old City neighbourhood in the 1990s, to get away from the communal tensions that frequently broke out in the area. The family first moved to Naranpura and later to Memnagar, on the outskirts of Ahmedabad. It was from here that Patel launched his political career, becoming a member of the Memnagar municipality in 1995-96, his son Anuj had told this paper.

These were the years that the BJP, riding the Ram Janmabhoomi wave, was on a steady ascendancy. In 1995, the party had won all major municipal corporation elections in the state. Patel, meanwhile, rose to become president of the Memnagar municipality, holding office for two terms in 1999-2000 and 2004-6.


He fought his first Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation election from Thaltej ward in 2010, and went on to twice become the AMC standing committee chairman. From 2015-17, he chaired the Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority (AUDA), the town planning authority for the city’s periphery.

In the 2012 Assembly elections, Patel managed the campaign of Anandiben Patel, a role that established his people management skills and endeared him to the former CM. In 2017, Patel contested his first Assembly election from the same seat and won by a record margin of 1,17,750 votes.

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Merely four years later, he found himself pitchforked to the CM’s post — an elevation, explained a senior leader to The Indian Express, that “bears the clear stamp of the Prime Minister”. While conjectures over why the PM picked a first-time MLA for the top job are yet to die down, those who have worked with the new CM in the past talk of him as being “hard working” and “calm” in stressful situations.

Anil Jodhani, the personal secretary to the AMC standing committee chairman, recalls how, during Patel’s term in 2010-14, a delegation of Congress corporators had confronted Patel to complain about availability of drinking water in their areas. “One of the corporators picked up a glass of water and splashed it on Patel’s face. But he was unfazed. He didn’t call the security to escort them out of the office. Instead, the next day, he invited them all for a discussion over tea,” says Jodhani.

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Former Ahmedabad Mayor Meenaxiben Patel, 63, who worked with Bhupendra in the 1990s, says, “His working style has not changed since his days in the municipality. He would always visit the local party office and address people’s issues. This made him very popular.”

Describing him as “sensitive”, a party worker says that at the peak of the pandemic, Patel, whom they fondly called “dada” (grandfather), ran a tiffin service for nearly 1,000 Covid patients at the Ahmedabad Civil Hospital. His office also ran a 24×7 helpdesk for people seeking treatment, food and other services, the party worker said.

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A former AMC official said that as the standing committee chairman, one of Patel’s initiatives — to form a “review committee that would meet every month for major projects” — resulted in “99 per cent of these projects being completed”.

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His association with the AMC finds a reflection in the new CMO, with Patel bringing in two former deputy municipal commissioners from the AMC as Officers on Special Duty.

First published on: 08-12-2022 at 16:01 IST
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