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Worrying signs in BJP: Modi, Shah begin 'cold-shouldering' Gujarat CM, party chief

Jitu Vaghani, Vijay Rupani
By RK Misra*
The political developments in neighbouring Maharashtra where a Shiv Sena-NCP-Congress government assumed office has had a trickle down effect in Gujarat with both the ruling BJP and the Congress opposition going into revamp mode.
Though the process was triggered off in Gujarat after the by-election results in which underdog Congress came from behind to bag three of the total six seats and narrowly missed a fourth one. It gained urgency when the BJP found itself outwitted and outclassed in government formation in Maharashtra despite bagging the highest number of states. If the BJP manoeuvre is borne out of a debacle, an energized Congress is cutting flab to become a lean-mean fighting machine.
Gujarat is the home state of both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and home minister and BJP chief Amit Shah. Both had been assured by chief minister Vijay Rupani and state party chief Jitu Vaghani of a clean sweep. The Gujarat results, which came alongside Maharashtra and Haryana ,proved a shocker.
Four of the six seats fell vacant when BJP legislators were elected as MPs while two Congress legislators high profile Alpesh Thakore and acolyte Dhavalsinh Zala, quit to join the BJP and were promptly given tickets. However, both were defeated.
In fact, the ruling party had pulled out all stops and had boasted of repeating it’s Lok Sabha performance in the state by bagging all the six seats. Congress, in effect retained two of its own , bagged a third (Tharad) where youth Congress leader Gulabsinh Rajput won and narrowly missed a fourth seat. In Amraiwadi constituency of Ahmedabad, the BJP received the fright of a lifetime and managed to forge ahead only in the last round.
The state party and government faced the music for the dismal outcome in the Gujarat by-elections and both the Prime Minister during his last visit as well as Shah had given a piece of their mind to Rupani, Vaghani, deputy chief minister Nitin Patel and home minister Pradipsinh Jadeja.
Modi has been unhappy with both Rupani and Vaghani. He was clearly seen cold shouldering the state party chief during his last two visits to the state. Rupani too was kept away from the last function of the Prime Minister at the Statue of Unity.
It is near certain that a revamp in both the government and the party is on the cards. Rupani may survive for the moment because of the backing from Amit Shah but Vaghani faces the axe.
In the case of Rupani as well, it is being increasingly felt that the party cannot go into elections in Gujarat in 2022 under his leadership. The ruling party was frightened out of its wits in the 2017 Gujarat assembly elections when Congress bagged 77 seats and brought the BJP tally to one below a hundred. Nine seats less and it would have been toppled from its power perch. In the period thereafter at least ten Congress legislators have been weaned away , some being made ministers while others have been accommodated with pay and perks.
Amit Chavda
Already, the first signs of unrest are visible. BJP MPs have begun raising issues concerning it’s own government. Devusinh Chauhan, MP from Kheda raised questions against the home department, harassment of NRIs at the international airport and the corrupt practices in play.
This is the third complaint against the state government and the MP released the letter he wrote to the home minister to the media. Similarly Anand MP Mitesh Patel and Banaskantha MP Parbat Patel have also been raising issues concerning farmers in Parliament including payment of crop insurance as well as compensation to farmers whose lands are being acquired for the bullet train.
Interestingly, the Gujarat chapter of the Bhartiya Kisan Sangh, the RSS affiliated farmer outfit came down hard on the BJP-ruled government charging it with aiding traders instead of farmers. Using harsh words it took the government to task for its poor data collection on cultivation and the crop losses that the farmers were facing.
Addressing mediapersons BKS Gujarat chief Vithal Dudhatra went on record to state that for the post ten years there is no record of crop cultivation data with the government. ”If you don’t have data on crop cultivation, how can you have data on crop loss”, he questioned adding that the state government is creating an illusion to aid traders rather than help the farmers who are in distress and in dire need of all assistance.
If the BJP is going in for a complete overhaul of it’ apparatus from the grassroot level to it’s highest echelons in the state, the Congress is also not lagging far behind. In fact just before the recent by-election results were declared , the state unit disbanded it’s state party set up leaving only the party chief Amit Chavda at the helm.
Maharashra developments have had trickle down effect in Gujarat, as both BJP and the Congress go into revamp mode
The disbanding exercise, in fact, did not come as a surprise. Internal squabbles and the relentless poaching by the ruling BJP of its legislators had queered the pitch for the revamp. Both Paresh Dhanani who is the leader of the Opposition in the State Assembly and party chief Chavda are in their forties and were the choice of Rahul Gandhi.
With the by-election results coming as a shot in the arm for the Congress, the stress in the new set up is likely to be on giving greater weightage to grassroots workers of proven loyalty. The previous ‘jumbo’ outfit is likely to give way to a lean-mean party machine, it is being pointed out.
The showing of the Congress candidate in the urban bastion of Amraiwadi in Ahmedabad during the recent by-elections where it almost snatched the seat before falling behind in the last lap, has come as a morale booster to its workers. It is seen as a breakthrough into the BJP’ s urban bastion.
Additionally, with Congress coming to share power in neighbouring Maharashtra along with NCP and the Shiv Sena, has energized the Congress party workers in the state. Plans are afoot to take on the BJP government with renewed vigour on the issue of crop loss insurance for farmers. The new party apparatus is expected to be in place by the end of the month.
With the farmers ranged against the BJP in Gujarat and growing signs of unrest within, there are tough times ahead for the ruling party in Modi-Shah’s own home!
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Senior Gujarat-based journalist. Blog: Wordsmiths & Newsplumbers

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