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Amit Shah for sure didn't visit Gujarat twice around Makarsankranti just to fly kites

By RK Misra*
With a critically important election in Delhi and the country in the grip of a debilitating anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA)-Nation Register of Citizens (NRC) stir, there has to be more than just ‘kite flying’ that brought Union home minister Amit Shah twice to Gujarat in a matter of ten days.
Ostensibly there were a string of engagements that dotted his official calendar during his visits, but these hardly reveal the complete picture. For the record, the home minister landed on home turf in the night of January 10 and left January 12 morning. He was back on the night of January 13 and after a two-day engagement left for Delhi again.
That Shah should be spending extended time in his home state when he has a packed plate in the crucial Delhi Assembly elections and an overflowing cup of woes in the proliferating nationwide student protests on the CAA-NRC issue, is a pointer to the serious business on hand.
While for the record Shah may have just spent two full working days in the course of his two visits but it is the oil burnt over four nights of brain storming and inter-actions that holds far greater relevance.
Within days of Shah leaving for Delhi the long festering discontentment had its fall-out when party legislator from Savli in Vadodara district, Ketan Inamdar, resigned his seat citing neglect of public interface by his own party government and ministers. Three party legislators of Bharuch district including a minister of state have upped the ante over the inability of the government in implementing the policy of providing 85 per cent jobs to locals in the state public sector, Gujarat Narmada Valley Fetilisers and Chemicals Limited (GNFC).
The three -- minister of state for Ishvarsinh Patel, and MLAs Arunsinh Rana and Dushyant Patel who had met the chief minister and submitted a memorandum -- have chosen to go public with their grievances against the government, as has former home minister Mahendra Trivedi. Damage control has saved the moment with Inamdar withdrawing his resignation but the problem persists.
Though JP Nadda has taken charge as the national BJP chief, Shah is expected to continue playing a dominant role in Gujarat affairs under the watchful eyes of the Prime Minister . A plethora of problems are lined up for his attention.
Taken together these include the looming Rajya Sabha elections, the contentious issues pertaining to the election/selection of key office-bearers including the near certain replacement of the state party chief, the continuing friction between the chief minister and the deputy chief minister and the public spats between BJP leaders including its ministers that is lowering the image of the party besides redressal of causative factors for the setback suffered in the last Assembly by-elections in the state.
Elections to 4 Rajya Sabha seats from Gujarat are due in March . Three of these are held by BJP (union minister of state Purshottam Rupala, Lalsinh Varodaria and Chunnibhai Gohil) and one by the Congress (Madhusudan Mistry).
As things stand, BJP does not possess the numbers to repeat its performance. Of the total 182 seats in the State Assembly, the BJP has 103 seats, Congress 73, tribal outfit, Bharariya Tribal Party 2, Nationalist Congress Party 1, independent 1, and two seats are vacant. The Congress lost a dozen legislators to poaching by the ruling BJP in the run-up to the 2017 Vidhan Sabha elections, and five after it.
The Congress exudes confidence that it will be able to increase its tally to Rajya Sabha 2 while the BJP chief is confident of bagging 3 of the four, the number it held earlier. The only way this is possible is either through induced cross-voting or the ‘buyers-sellers’ meet. BJP is not new to it.
In the August 2017 Rajya Sabha election to 3 seats in which Shah himself, Smriti Irani and Ahmed Patel of the Congress were candidates, Shah himself had masterminded a strategy of inducing almost a dozen defections in a desperate bid to defeat Patel but failed. A similar strategy is not ruled out this time too.
The Rajya Sabha remains the Achilles heel of the ruling BJP where it has had to seek support from non-NDA parties to get crucial legislation through. Its dream of majority here has suffered a setback after it lost out in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Maharashtra and Jharkhand, besides a substantially reduced tally in Haryana.
The crucial Assembly elections in Delhi and Bihar notwithstanding, the year 2020 will see elections to 73 seats in the Rajya Sabha countrywide with 69 members set to retire (18 from BJP,17 from the Congress) and 4 existing vacancies. A close analysis of the data reveals that BJP is unlikely to make any substantial gains and therefore the desperation.
The constant fencing between Chief Minister Rupani and his deputy Nitin Patel is the worst kept secret in Gujarat
Similarly, in October last year two Congress turncoats, Alpesh Thakore and Dhavalsinh Jhala, who had been fielded by BJP, had lost when the Congress bagged three of the 6 Assembly seats in the by-polls and lost the fourth to a last round surge.
It is these by-election results that had both the Prime Minister and the home minister extremely upset. The result is that the departure of state party chief Jitu Vaghani is a certainty while the sword of Damocles hangs over the head of Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, who has received a temporary reprieve, thanks mainly to the top brass preoccupation with the CAA-NRC stir.
The constant fencing between Chief Minister Rupani and his deputy Nitin Patel is the worst kept secret in Gujarat with bureaucrats getting sucked into the vortex of the push and pull leading to all round administrative laxity.
The return of Gujarat cadre IAS, Anil Mukim, from Delhi to take charge as chief secretary of the state in a bid to shore up matters has so far had little impact what with PMO pointsman, KK Kailashnathan, enjoying over-arching stature.
In fact, dissidence had surfaced soon after the 2017 Assembly elections. Inamdar was one of three BJP legislators from Vadodara, including Madhu Shrivastava and Yogesh Patel, who had in 2018 first raised the issue. Subsequently Yogesh Patel was inducted into the cabinet and Shrivastava made chairman of the Gujarat Agro-industries Corporation(GAIC). Last year party MP from Kaira, Devusinh Chauhan, Anand MP Mitesh Patel and Banaskantha MP Parbat Patel had raised issues which put their own government in the dock.
Though Inamdar’s resignation brought issues to the fore, those whom he charges with inaction-ministers- have themselves been voicing the same grievances. In the cabinet meeting on January 9, there were fireworks when three ministers went at each other alleging that the works related to their respective constituencies were not being done.
Water and civil supplies minister Kunvarji Bavaliya was particularly vocal and said that despite repeated reminders, even the work of BJP workers of his constituency were not being attended to.
An angry home minister soon waded into the duel with his own set of grievances in this regard with the deputy chief minister in his cross-hairs. The deputy chief minister, in turn, had his own complaints and it fell on the lot of chief minister Rupani to bring down temperatures with the light-hearted banter that even his works don’t get done. 
All in all, BJP in Gujarat is a house bitterly divided against itself.
---
*Senior Gujarat-based journalist. Blog: http://wordsmithsandnewsplumbers.blogspot.com/

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