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As BJP heads for polls in Gujarat, balance of power clear: Party over govt

At the Wednesday event, Gujarat BJP president C R Paatil stressed that no elected representative should "insult a party worker", and in an apparent message to the elected representatives, underlined that people voted for the BJP only due to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Written by Parimal A Dabhi | Gandhinagar |
Updated: April 7, 2022 10:43:24 pm
With elections scheduled later this year, the BJP leadership has put its weight behind the karyakarta or party worker compared to the government. (Photo: Twitter/@CRPaatil)

On Wednesday, Gujarat BJP president C R Paatil presided over a function to distribute ‘Sakriya Sabhya (active member)’ cards to around 1.29 lakh select party members spread across the state on the eve of the foundation day of the BJP. The accessory, which looks like an identity card and can be worn, bears Paatil’s signature, has the name and mobile number of the worker and their membership serial number, with their photograph.

With elections scheduled later this year, the BJP leadership has put its weight behind the karyakarta or party worker compared to the government.

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At the Wednesday event, Paatil stressed that no elected representative should “insult a party worker”, and in an apparent message to the elected representatives, underlined that people voted for the BJP only due to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel responded saying that in his government, party workers would “wield influence”.

The preeminence to the party worker has been a feature of Paatil’s tenure, which began in July 2020, and has coincided with a weakened CM at the top (first Vijay Rupani, and now Patel, who was brought in only in September 2021, for the last leg of the government). One of Paatil’s first directives was that two ministers should be present at the party headquarters in Gandhinagar twice a week to sort out workers’ issues related to the government.

Wednesday wasn’t the first time he told elected representatives to respect party workers and get their work done. He has also warned them of stern action in the event of complaints from party workers about their behaviour.

In fact, this was one of the points of friction between Paatil and the former Rupani government, with party workers and leaders at the time complaining of being ignored by ministers. This has changed under Patel, as per party leaders.

In early 2021, in another advantage to party workers, candidates who had completed three or more terms, were above 60 years of age, were relatives of party workers or who were former mayors, were denied tickets for local body elections. This allowed many new names to get tickets.

Patel came in at the head of a completely new government in September 2021, as part of a BJP mass reshuffle, and most of the ministers now, including the CM, are first-time ministers. This has also tilted the balance in favour of the party, with sometimes the lines between it and the government blurred.

On occasions people have been known to approach the party headquarters Shree Kamalam for resolution of issues with the government rather than the Secretariat. Recently, a delegation of the Maldhari community approached Paatil against the Gujarat Cattle Control in Urban Areas Bill. Paatil called their demands justified and requested the CM to reconsider the Bill, even going so far as to express confidence that it would be withdrawn in the next session of the Assembly.

On Thursday, the state BJP launched the ‘Social Justice Fortnight’ under which the party would try to cover as many beneficiaries as possible under various Central government schemes. Apart from a person from the government, a leader of the state party unit is in-charge per scheme.

Party leaders pitch even the compulsory wearing of a newly designed saffron cap by every leader – introduced by Paatil and first worn by Modi – as another “leveller” between the party and government.

A senior party worker from the Nikol area, among the 1.29 lakh ‘Active Member’ cardholders identified by the Congress, says: “The work culture has changed after the arrival of C R Paatil… We now feel important, that any common worker can get a position of prominence or a party ticket.”

A leader says that while the BJP has always given importance to party workers, “earlier there was a sense of being ignored”. “Even in the state unit, many young faces from districts and cities have now been inducted. Each and every cell / morcha post has been filled up, so workers feel rewarded and it also helps party functioning,” the leader says, adding that a BJP worker is “very emotional” unlike other parties, and “giving such caring treatment helps the party manifold”.

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Another ‘Active Member’ says he hopes the momentum can be sustained, adding: “Let us see how much say party workers have in the Assembly elections.”

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