Quick Take: Gujarat’s flood of political discontent

Gujarat Map
Anandiben Patel is out as Gujarat CM; Vijay Rupani is in her seat as CM. But what’s there in this deal for Prime Minister Narendra Modi? One can see that Rupani, who is an old buddy of party president Amit Shah, may run Gujarat for Shah like the Ramayana’s Bharat did for Ram. But this could not have counted with Namo for making the way for Rupani. So what is it that persuaded him to accept Shah’s plan for replacing Patel with Rupani? It could have happened only if Shah had assured the PM to rewin the Gujarat elections 2017 if he were given a free hand in running the affairs of the state. Indianmandarins has learnt that this is what happened when Shah reportedly told NaMo that “Saheb, jeetvani guarantee hu apu chu. Badhu ekvaar mara per chodi do.” (Saheb, I am giving you the guarantee that we will win, just leave it to me.)
But the bizarre process of transfer of power in Gujarat makes it amply clear that the BJP in the state is going through an intense internal struggle for power. To get a feel of this, just look at the way the events of Anandiben’s resignation drama unfolded itself in the last one week. Instead of informing the party president or the PM, the CM chose to announce her resignation in a Gujarati post on Facebook. This made it clear that she was not exactly happy with the Dalit episode was handled by the Party. May it be noted that she ran the state administration more like a chief secretary rather than a CM. She was studious, worked hard to push files and stern with her colleagues and staff in getting things done. But she displayed provocative indifference to political management. This might have worked in her selection as CM two years ago, but convinced the Patel community that they could get a pie of the reservation cake through a sustained agitation – like the Gujjars in Rajasthan and Jats in Haryana.
Rupani might not prove to be the kind of successor Anandiben might have wished. But in life, you don’t always get what you want. With the Dalit and Patel sentiments running against the BJP, the elevation of Rupani as CM is an attempt at consolidating the other social groups. Rupani, like Shah, is a Jain. By making a Jain the CM, Shah is doing nothing new but replicating the existing model: Maharashtra is run by a non-Maratha, Haryana by a non-Jat, Jharkhand by a non-tribal, and Assam by a non-Ahom.  But these states are not the best examples of BJP rule; on the contrary, the best examples are the states like Chhatisgarh, MP, and Rajasthan which have homegrown leaders who have shown remarkable political and administrative acumen in combining economic growth with social peace and cohesiveness.
Maybe, the former stock broker is hedging his master’s interest by installing weak chief ministers in several states. Unlike Raman Singh, Shivraj Singh, and Vasundhara Raje, Phadnavis, Thakkar, Rupani, and others may not emerge as a serious contender for the PM’s post. But this tactic is seriously flawed. A weak chief minister will surely not turn into a contender for the PM’s post, but he will mess up the state affairs so badly that it may be well-nigh impossible for the BJP to muster the magical number of 272+ to form a government on its own. It’s clear from the events of the last few months that the BJP’s Gujarat affairs could have been handled in a much more amicable manner without exposing the divide inside the party. The fact that it wasn’t is seen as Shah’s failure, not Anandiben’s. If he couldn’t manage Gujarat as is the case, Shah should drop the idea of running several states through proxy chief ministers. He has to learn a few lessons from the continual demise of the Congress party.
By M K Shukla & Rakesh Ranjan