On August 1, Anandiben Patel, became the first chief minister in India to post her resignation on social media. Her move seemed perfect in an age where social media often dictates headlines. Anandiben cited the unofficial party rule that sets the age bar at 75 years for public life for its leaders as the reason for her resignation as she is turning 75 in few months. Her timing for the resignation was just right. With her resignation shifting the media attention from the ongoing agitation against public flogging of Dalit youths who were alleged to have skinned a dead cow. Though this has given the BJP in Gujarat some relief, but is appointing a new chief minister enough?
When Anandiben took over the reins from present Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, she had an uphill and in fact difficult task of living upto the expectations of the masses and the standards set by Prime Minister Modi. Though comparing her with Modi would be unfair, she did manage to hold the fort. Insiders say her actual reason for quitting could be the lack of support she had from the party and not the age factor as mentioned in her resignation post on the social media.
The fault lines within the party were visible in the party during the announcement on reservation for the poor among the upper castes in April as it was made by the current chief minister Vijay Rupani who was seated next to her. Anandiben also found herself pushed into a corner, first with the Patidar agitation. Patidars who formed the backbone of the BJP, protested violently to demand reservation in government jobs and educational institutions similar to what is granted to the people belonging to the Scheduled Castes and Tribes. This resulted in electoral reverses for the BJP in the recent civic poll. Anandiben Patel was attacked personally as well, as the state government was accused of nepotism by favoring the business partners of her daughter by giving them land at disposable price.
The new chief minister, Vijay Rupani has an uphill task of wooing the Dalits and the Patels as the legitimacy of the BJP is at an all-time low. Dalits who after the Una incident feel they are not safe in Gujarat and the Patels, who have repeatedly demanded for reservation in the past one year, have drifted away from the BJP.
The Congress, who have been out of power in Gujarat for nearly two decades could benefit from this situation. Also trying to exploit this situation is the Aam Aadmi Party, which is trying to expand its base in Gujarat. Albeit, the state has seen two-party system, the AAP could exploit the voters by highlighting the public issues and given the fact that BJP’s legitimacy is at an all time low and lack of support for Congress, AAP could gain substantially.
Gujarat will go to polls in 2017, but the new chief minister Vijay Rupani has an uphill task of gaining back the public support for the party and assuring the Dalits that they are safe in Gujarat under the BJP.