Narendra Modi is back to eyeing Gujrat for finding optimism in his run-up to the general elections in 2024. Chief Minister of Gujrat Vijay Rupani recently tendered his resignation making way for Bhupendra Patel to lead the state for the remaining tenure. Interestingly, Rupani was made to follow the fate of Anandiben Patel who did the same for Rupani back in 2016. Meanwhile, the lesser-known Bhupendra Patel rose to the limelight overnight, a remarkable feat for the person who was not even properly known in the Gujarat assembly till the other day. It was almost as if Anadiben knew that Rupani had it coming. She took time from her busy schedule as the Uttar Pradesh Governor to congratulate Bhupendra. In 2016, it was Rupani’s turn to celebrate and today life has come a full circle to make Anandiben content. All thanks to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi would do anything now to save the image of his government and party.
The BJP and the Prime Minister desperately needed something to thwart the attention of the opposition and public after its dismal loss in West Bengal and the Covid induced an economic crisis. The move-in Gujrat attempts to show the world that he still has hold of the reins of power. Then again Gujrat was never the first choice of the saffron leaders. If some reports are to be believed, they tried and failed to replace the Yogi Adityanath as the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh. Yogi drove to Delhi and very easily managed to convince the saffron decision-makers in his favor. Delhi was also fast to realize that replacing Yogi might boomerang and given the current circumstances, they do not want any risks. Rupani, on the other hand, was the perfect scapegoat. His recent sudden resignation did not come as a surprise as he was not supposed to do it. He was rather asked to opt-out and seems like the high command didn’t leave much of an option for Rupani. His handling of the Covid-19 second wave in Gujarat was an albatross around his and, by extension, around Narendra Modi’s neck. Another 14 months and Gujarat will go to the polls, and leaving Gujarat to Chief Minister Vijay Rupani would be equivalent to committing suicide.
Another reason for the move is the fact that a section of people – ‘Patidar’ had grown very angry with the BJP especially after the covid second wave. And while Rupani is ‘Jain’, Bhupendra Patel is ‘Patidar’. But will this gamble actually see through the BJP’s game-plan for the future, will be interesting to note. 14 months is both short and long, considering the fact that while Bhupendra Patel may be a Patidar, Congress party’s Gujarat unit working president Hardik Patel is but another Patidar himself. If Hardik is to be believed, the BJP plans would not work this time as 14 months is too short a time for the Patidars to forgive and forget. The point is, Modi has sprung a surprise to shore up his receding ratings. Replacing Vijay Rupani with Bhupendra Patel has lent a sense of victory, even if a pyrrhic one. The abrupt removal of two Uttarakhand Chief Ministers, in short-shrift, was also to convey that Narendra Modi was still in command despite the floating Covid-dead and the plummeting stock. The major problem now for Narendra Modi is the fact that the Gujarat model is out of shape, rusty, and has to be beaten into shape all over again. Will it work or not, cannot be concluded now! But the BJP plan is surely in motion.