Gandhinagar: First-term MLA Bhupendra Patel was on Monday sworn in Gujarat chief minister, two days after Vijay Rupani’s surprise exit from the post, a year ahead of the Assembly polls.
Patel (59), unanimously elected BJP legislature party leader on Sunday, was sworn in as the state’s 17th chief minister by Governor Acharya Devvrat at a simple ceremony at Raj Bhavan here.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah, Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar, Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Goa CM Pramod Sawant and Karnataka CM Basavaraj Bommai were present.
Devvrat and Shah congratulated Patel after the ceremony. Shah was the first to congratulate Patel after he took the oath.
Patel’s predecessor Vijay Rupani and former deputy chief minister Nitin Patel were among those present at the ceremony.
As decided by the party, only Patel took the oath. The council of ministers will take oath during the next few days after their names are finalised, BJP sources said.
Patel’s elevation to the coveted post is being attributed to his closeness to former Gujarat chief minister and current Uttar Pradesh Governor Anandiben Patel. Both have residences in the same locality in Ahmedabad.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated Patel on taking the oath as CM of Gujarat. Congratulations to Bhupendra Bhai on taking oath as CM of Gujarat. I have known him for years and have seen his exemplary work, be it in the BJP Organisation or civic administration and community service. He will certainly enrich Gujarat’s growth trajectory, he tweeted.
The governor on Sunday invited Patel to take oath as CM after accepting the proposal of the new BJP legislature party leader to form the government.
At the legislature party meeting, the proposal to elect Patel the legislative party leader was moved by Rupani, whose resignation as CM on Saturday, 15 months ahead of the Assembly polls, surprised many political observers.
Rupani, the fourth chief minister to demit office in BJP-ruled states during the coronavirus pandemic, was sworn in as chief minister his second stint as CM – in December 2017 and completed five years in office on August 7 this year.
With state Assembly polls scheduled in December 2022, the BJP is banking on Patel, a Patidar, for poll victory. In the 2017 Assembly elections, BJP won 99 of the 182 seats and Congress got 77.
The Patidars are a dominant caste in Gujarat with a sizeable control over the electoral votes and dominate the political economy with a stronghold over education, realty and cooperative sectors. They constitute around 15 per cent of the state’s population.
Patel has become the fifth from the Patidar community to occupy the CM’s chair since Gujarat’s formation in 1960, indicating the clout wielded by the influential social group.
His elevation is being seen as an attempt by the BJP to woo the Patidars ahead of the 2022 polls and retain its grip on Gujarat, which is under its rule for over two decades.
Before Bhupendra Patel, Gujarat saw Anandiben Patel, Keshubhai Patel, Babubhai Patel and Chimanbhai Patel as chief ministers from the Patidar or Patel community.
Patel’s elevation – he is the first from the Patidar sub-group to be a chief minister – is key to BJP’s plans to woo the Kadva Patidar community, which some political observers feel, has drifted away from the party.
He is a trustee of Sardardham, the Patidar community organisation that hosted the programme where Modi was the chief guest on Saturday.
Born in Ahmedabad, Patel is an MLA from the Ghatlodia seat, previously held by Anandiben Patel. He won the seat by over 1.17 lakh votes in 2017, the highest margin in that poll. Ghatlodia is part of the Gandhinagar Lok Sabha constituency represented by Shah.
Patel, who holds a diploma in civil engineering, has served as Ahmedabad municipal councillor and as the chairperson of the Standing Committee of Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation and Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority. He is also a trustee at Patidar organisation Vishwa Umiya Foundation.
He has never held a ministerial post, just like Modi, who was never a minister when he became Gujarat CM 20 years ago. Modi was sworn in as CM on October 7, 2001, and became an MLA on February 24, 2002, by winning a bypoll.
The BJP’s CM choice came as a surprise for many as the low-profile, first-time legislator was not seen to be among the top contenders for the post.
Gujarat BJP chief C R Paatil said Patel’s work at the grass-root level, his hold on the cooperative sector, association with party workers and administrative abilities were among the factors that led to his elevation.
Before the swearing-in ceremony, Patel met Rupani at the latter’s official residence in Gandhinagar and held discussions on various issues, a release issued by the state government said. He also met Nitin Patel at the latter’s residence in Ahmedabad.
Soon after the swearing-in ceremony, Patel held a meeting with senior officials to review the flood-like situation in some parts of the Saurashtra region and instructed authorities to air-lift stranded persons in Jamnagar district, a release said.
Patel phoned Jamnagar collector and asked him to expedite rescue operations with the help of NDRF and shift stranded people to safer places. He also instructed Rajkot collector and municipal commissioner to shift people living in low-lying areas to safer places.