By Harihar Swarup
In a dramatic turn of event, BJP replaced its Gujarat Chief minister with a first-time MLA. Bhupendra Patel’s rise has been dizzying—from a young man who sold firecrackers, to the owners of a construction firm and corporator, to the 17th Chief Minister of Gujarat marked his eventful career.
It was a turbulent start in office for Bhupendra Patel. Parts of the state was reeling under floods and after aerial survey of Jamnagar, the new chief minister was to head to Rajkot. But the aircraft was grounded due to bad weather and Patel had to travel nearly 100-km distance by road—a rough start.
Worse, the swearing-in ceremony of his new team that was to be held following day was postponed, reportedly because of protests from set of ministers to be dropped.
With the Central BJP leadership plucking the first-time MLA from near anonymity and placing him on the hot seat, Patel’s every move, every order, every nod of head will be watched and scrutinized—in Delhi and Gandhinagar.
According to his affidavit in his debut assembly election in 2017, Patel holds a diploma in civil engineering from Government Polytechnic College in Ahmedabad, where his father Rajnikant was principal and run Vihan Associates, a construction company managed by his son and son-in-law.
According to his son Anuj, their firm, now renamed ‘Ansh’ Construction after Patel’s grandson, handles commercial and residential projects and is currently building an affordable housing project in posh Ahmedabad neighbourhood of South Bopal.
Apart from being the first Kedva Patidar CM, the 59-year-old Patel is the first from Ahmedabad city to get selected for the top job—the 16 chief ministers before him have all been from other parts of the state.
As a young man, Patel would set up a temporary firecracker shop during the festival season in Dariapur Pol, a close nit neighbourhood—it celebrated his anointment with bursting of crackers..
After college, Patel worked in a private construction company for around three years. He later launched Vardhan Towers, a residential project in Naranpura, with eight of his college friends.
Like several other Hindu families, the Patels moved out of the old neighbourhood in the 1990s, to get away from communal riots that frequently broke out in the area. The family, says Anuj, first moved to Naranpura and later to Memnagar, on the outskirts of Ahmedabad. It was here that Patel launched his political career, becoming, a member of the Memnagar municipality in 1995-96.
Those were the years that the BJP, riding the Ram Janmabhoomi wave, was on steady ascendency—in 1995, the party won all the major municipal corporation elections in the state. Patel rose to become President of the Memnagar municipality, holding office for two terms 1999—2000 and 2004-06.
He fought his first Ahmedabad Municipal corporation election from Thaltej ward in 2010 and went on to become the standing committee chairman twice. In 2015-17, he chaired the Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority that makes town planning schemes for the city’s periphery.
In 2012 Assembly elections , Patel managed campaign of Anandiben Patel from Ghatlodia, a role that established his people management skills and endeared him to former chief minister. After Anandiben went on as Governor, having been deposed as chief minister, Patel contested the 2017 election from the same seat and won by a margin by a record 1.17 lakh votes.
The first few months will be very important for the new CM. Patel and his cabinet will have to prove that they can administer the state effectively and efficiently. The second challenge is to ensure that the dropped ministers do not sabotage governance. The biggest challenge will be to pull through the coming election. (IPA Service)