After being accused of mismanaging two major uprisings in Gujarat, Anandiben Patel has on Facebook said she would like to quit. The BJP has accepted her offer and is expected to announce her replacement tomorrow, most likely Nitinbhai Patel, currently the state’s Health Minister.
Gujarat votes soon for its next government and local BJP leaders have been complaining, as ndtv.com reported in May, that Anandiben has steered the party’s ebbing popularity in a state the party has governed for over a decade.
Picked by Prime Minister Narendra Modi as his replacement in Gujarat in 2014, Anandiben posted that she turns 75 in two months and respects the BJP’s principle of retiring older leaders to promote younger ones. BJP sources say that for obliging the party with her resignation, she could be appointed Governor soon.
Last month, four young Dalit men in Una were tied to a car, stripped to their waists, and thrashed by cow vigilantes, who uploaded the video on social media. The assault has led to huge protests by Dalits in Gujarat against Anandiben. They point out that the victims had not slaughtered a cow but were skinning the carcass, an exacting and unenviable occupation thrust upon their caste.
The Una attack has opened up the BJP to accusations of failing to protect the weakest sections of society just as two crucial states with large Dalit populations, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, rev into election mode.
In parliament, opposition leaders have demanded an explanation from the centre, and Dalit leader Mayawati has reclaimed centre stage at a crucial point in Uttar Pradesh’s timeline for its election.
Last year, Anandiben was unable to effectively counter the aggressive campaign led by Hardik Patel, then just 22 years old. Rallying the Patel or Patidar community around him, the young leader drew mega crowds to public parks where he pilloried the BJP of abandoning one of its most loyal groups of supporters.
Mr Patel demanded reserved government jobs and places in colleges for the Patidars, who, he said, had been excluded from the industry-centric development and prosperity of Gujarat. The government failed to appease both him and his supporters, and violence erupted across the state after an ill-advised late-night arrest of Mr Patel.
Arvind Kejriwal of the Aam Aadmi Party or AAP has been campaigning in Gujarat, claiming that the dissatisfaction with the government and the impotence of the Congress as the main opposition party, create the space he needs to create a new power centre. He tweeted this evening that Anandiben is exiting to prevent an embarrassing takedown by his party in the election.