Gujarat’s new Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel’s cabinet of ministers was sworn in on September 16 at Gandhinagar amid dissent within Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The swearing-in ceremony was earlier scheduled to be held on September 15 but had to be postponed. Later in the day, as posters were being taken down, the office of the Chief Minister took to social media to inform the new schedule for the ceremony.
No minister from previous CM Vijay Rupani’s cabinet has been repeated in the new cabinet. Bhupendra Patel’s cabinet has 24 ministers, most of whom are young and new faces in the state's electoral politics.
The massive overhaul of the cabinet and elevation of a first time MLA to the post of Chief Minister did not sit well with the party leaders and members.
A series of meetings were held at party president CR Patil’s residence so that the decision can be executed without hitch. However, on September 15, the bungalows and offices of the soon to be former ministers were briskly vacated followed by postponing of the event.
While, followers of Kuwarji Bavaliya, a turncoat who had quit the Congress in 2018 on the promise of ministerial berth, took to social media to register protest, supporters of other former ministers threatened mass resignation.
“The move is most likely to end the political careers of many veteran leaders in BJP. So, one can understand that leaders like Nitin Patel or Pradipsinh Jadeja who have decades of experience did not take the decision silently. However, the dissent did fade out in two days with the same leaders speaking up in favour of Narendra Modi’s decision in the media. That speaks a lot about the fact that these leaders don’t have any option than to stick with the BJP,” said Manishi Jani, an Ahmedabad-based political analys,t who was president of the Navnirman Samiti during the Navnirmal Andolan of 1973-74.
“For the past two years through the pandemic, no MLA visited or bothered to seek whereabouts of their constituency. Adding to that the second wave of the pandemic was followed by local and civic body elections where the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) not only managed a historic victory in Surat, a stronghold of BJP, but also cut into the crucial Patidar vote bank. So, the BJP has to appease the Patidars who recently in a meeting hinted toward having a Chief Minister from the community. Choosing Bhupendra Patel appeases both Patidar and the business community of builders,” Jani told NewsClick.
Gopal Italia, a Patidar leader and President of Aam Aadmi Party, Gujarat, took to social media and said: “The BJP now has four leaders from Surat in the cabinet. The state BJP president and one union minister are also from Surat. It is the same Surat where AAP recently made history by winning 27 seats in local body polls.”
In the new cabinet, there are seven ministers who belong to OBC communities while seven belong to Patidar (Patel) community. Four are tribals, two belong to the Brahmin community, two from Darbar (Kshatriya) and two are dalits. There is one Jain minister and two women who belong to dalit and tribal communities.
Rajendra Trivedi, a 65-year-old Brahmin leader from Vadodara, Central Gujarat, is amongst the MLAs who got key portfolios, as he is the new cabinet minister for Revenue, Disaster Management, Law & Justice, Science, and Parliamentary Affairs.
Trivedi, the former Speaker of Gujarat Legislative Assembly, had resigned hours before the swearing-in ceremony of cabinet ministers. A criminal lawyer from Vadodara, he appeared for some of the accused in the 2002 riots cases and the Best Bakery case. A two-time Corporator, Trivedi rose in ranks within the party and gave up his law practice in 2016 after he was inducted as a Minister of State (MoS) in charge of Youth, Sports and Cultural Affairs and Pilgrimage Development departments.
Jitu Vaghani, the two-time MLA from Bhavnagar (west) and former president of state BJP is the new MoS Education, Science and Technology. Vaghani, a prominent leader of the Darbar (OBC) community from Saurashtra, had lost his first election to Congress’s Shaktisinh Gohil in 2007. He won and retained the seat in 2012 and 2017 respectively.
Harsh Sanghavi, an MLA from Majura constituency in Surat, would hold key posts of MoS Home, Sports and Disaster Management. 36-year-old Sanghvi, a Jain diamond merchant from Surat, is one of the leaders who has rapidly climbed up the ladder. From being State General Secretary of Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BYJM) in 2010 and National Vice President in 2017, Sanghvi bagged a ticket in the 2012 Assembly elections and won to become the youngest MLA at the age of 27. In 2017, Sanghvi won with a record margin from Majura, a constituency that had been the epicentre of massive anti-GST (good and services tax) protests.
Kanu Desai, the MoS Finance, Energy and Petrochemical is an MLA from the Pardi constituency in Valsad, South Gujarat. Desai, a Brahmin by caste, has been politically active since 2008 and won his first election in 2012 from Pardi and retained his seat in 2017.
Purnesh Modi, the MoS Roads and Buildings, Transport, Civil Aviation, Pilgrimage Development, an MLA from Surat (west), belongs to Modhwanik (OBC) community. In 2019, he filed a defamation suit against Congress leader Rahul Gandhi which is on trial in the Surat district court. Modi was the BJP president of Surat city between 2010 and 2016 before he contested Assembly polls in 2017.
Raghavji Patel, the MoS Agriculture, Animal husbandry and Cattle Preservation is a six-time MLA from Jamnagar district. Patel, a strong Leuva Patidar leader of Saurashtra, joined Congress in 1975 and contested his first Assembly election against Keshubhai Patel in 1985 but lost. Patel then switched to BJP and won to become a minister under former Chief Minister Suresh Mehta, Shankersinh Vaghela and Dilip Parikh. He came back to Congress in 1999 and won elections in 2007 and 2012. In 2017, he defected to BJP but lost the election but later won the seat in a bypoll.
MoS (Independent Charge) for Labour, Employment, Panchayat and Rural Housing, is being held by Brijesh Merja, a second-time MLA from Morbi. A Kadva Patel from Saurashtra, Merja is a Congress turncoat who switched parties last year.
Arvind Raiyani, the MoS for Transport, Civil Aviation, Tourism and Yatradham Development, a first-time MLA from Rajkot (east) is a Leuva Patel. Raiyani, a silver jewellery manufacturer, won the Rajkot seat that was once the stronghold of Congress. In 2017, Congress heavyweight Indranil Rajyaguru, the sitting MLA from the constituency, was nominated to be a candidate from Rajkot (west) against Rupani resulting in Congress losing both the seats to BJP.
Manisha Vakil, MoS (Independent) Women and Child Development, Social Justice and Empowerment, is one of the two women in the newly inducted cabinet. Vakil, a second-term MLA from Vadodara City constituency is known for her active role in raising ‘concerns’ under the Disturbed Areas Act and pushing for including multiple residential colonies of her constituency in Vadodara under the purview of the Act.
Rushikesh Patel is the MoS Health & Family Welfare, Medical Education, a portfolio that was previously held by Nitin Patel. Patel, a Patidar leader is three-time MLA from Visnagar, the epicentre of Hardik Patel-led Patidar reservation agitation.