11:45pm, 1st August, 2016
The days of Anandiben Patel in Gujarat weren’t very smooth. The State-wide protests, following the thrashing of a Dalit family by cow protection group, have shaken Gujarat politics. In a recent rally, the Dalit community threatened the BJP Government that they will teach the saffron party a lesson in the elections next year.
However, the circumstances of Anandiben’s resignation are very similar to the situations in 2001 when Keshubhai Patel, then CM of the state, resigned. Similar to Anandiben, Keshubhai faced criticism after BJP lost by-elections and the foundered handling of the 2001 earthquake in the state.
Till he resigned, Keshubhai was the unquestioned leader of BJP in the state. The party had not many options then, and as fate would have it Narendra Modi, then general secretary, was promoted the new Chief Minister of the state. Similar, to how it is now, Modi came to power when elections were just a year ahead. The next election was held, to the backdrop of the violent communal riots of 2002. Modi gave a thumping victory to the party and established himself its champion in the state. With his mass appeal, he was able to repeat the results twice in the successive elections of 2007 and 2012. Then, as ‘Gujarat Model’ became the standard of development, Modi became the Prime Minister in 2014.
When Keshubhai resigned, it was an opportunity, that Modi seized, and how!
Now, when Anandiben Patel steps down, the party is again back to that phase. Who will be the new face? And will he be able to handle the heat? Modi had 2002 Riots to help him win the elections. 2016 is nothing like 2002. In the past one year alone, the incumbent party has antagonised two key voter factions. The Paitdar agitation, which brought the Government much shame, has alienated the support of Patils from BJP. The heat of Dalit Protests, and the deaths associated with it, is still rising. State Government has totally mishandled the entire incident.
Modi’s rise to the national level left a political void in Gujarat. It was understood that Anandiben Patel was just a caretaker till the next elections. But under her, the ‘care’ was not enough. Issues are getting out of hands. The Dalit issue has been so blown up that it might also affect elections in Uttar Pradesh. What BJP needs now is a strong leader, who can be another Modi, to make Gujarat ‘great again’, because, frankly, BJP is losing it in Gujarat now. Gujarat being the home state of Modi and Amit Shah, two largest leaders of the party, it also becomes a prestige issue for BJP to manage this efficiently.
So, will we see rise of a new Narendra Modi? Or will Gujarat see a change in Government after a long time and go for the alternatives – AAP or Congress?