Anandiben Patel, the chief minister of Gujarat, surprised all when she announced on Monday in a Facebook post that she is resigning from the post. While she said it was to allow the party to pick a fresh chief minister ahead of the 2017 elections, there are three issues that are said to have been major factors in her taking his decision:
- the inability to control the Patidar reservation riots
- the slow speed in responding to the assault on Dalits in Una that could hit the party in other states
- land deals linked to her family members
But the BJP leader, who was said to be Narendra Modi's pick as Chief Minister when he left for the Prime Minister's post, has created a bit of a mess for the party. Here's why:
A unnecessary twist in the Gujarat Model story
Just under a month ago, Narendra Modi and Amit Shah's backing for Anandiben was said to be so strong that they juggled the union cabinet to send a clear message that she was going nowhere. By resigning, Patel and the party acknowledge that her handling of the two most contentious issues in the state has not been up to the mark.
The Gujarat Model can't be declared a failure in her tenure, but then it shows that it has been slipping since Modi left for Delhi and raises questions about just how sustainable it is.
Puts a lot of pressure on her successor
Of the three names being cited as successors, Vijay Rupani is said to have the best chance thanks to his proximity to the party chief and Narendra Modi. But Rupani will have to show remarkable dexterity in taking over a state in which there are multiple agitations presently. The Dalit agitation is the most troubling for the BJP so far due to its potential to hit the party in other states before the Gujarat elections come by end of 2017.
Can Rupani do what Patel couldn't to resolve these issues?
Will it force Amit Shah to move?
Will Amit Shah continue to head the party or will he be needed to hold the fort in Gujarat, as Arvind Kejriwal claims? Kejriwal is leading the belief that the Prime Minister's lieutenant may have to make the journey back to Gujarat and take over to ensure the story of the Gujarat model touted by Modi during the 2014 elections isn't hurt in any way in 2017.
But given his importance to the party's fortunes in Uttar Pradesh and Punjab next year, the party is unlikely to spare Shah just yet. Given he's been in post of national party president for barely a few years, he's unlikely to give it up just yet to return to Gujarat just yet.
The Gujarat chief minister's resignation is undoubtedly an undesirable event for the Modi government at the centre as it is a tacit acknowledgement of the government's failure to handle the state since one of its most charismatic chief ministers left. But given it has a year to turn things around, the BJP may not be overly worried just yet.