The results of the elections aren't out yet but if all goes to plan, this year's assembly elections could catapult Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi into national politics and if he does Saurabh Patel, a little known but powerful minister in Gujarat could take the reins of the state from him.
While Modi's former deputy Amit Shah continues to battle to stay out of prison for his role in the Sohrabuddin Sheikh and Tulsi Prajapati fake encounter cases, it is Saurabh Patel who could emerge a potential front runner to succeed Modi in the event that he decides to pursue larger goals.
A power centre in the Gujarat government, the 54-year-old Patel held portfolios like energy, finance, industries, petrochemicals, minerals and civil aviation and the MBA degree holder from the US has been a vocal critic of the Chief Minister's opponents.
He recently defended the Chief Minister against allegations leveled by activist turned politician Arvind Kejriwal against Modi and in the past has stoutly held out against allegations by the state Congress unit against the government.
While he may lack the charisma and proximity to the Chief Minister that Shah or revenue minister Anandiben Patel have, the minister is younger and is reportedly connected to two families that control two of India's biggest industrial houses.
Reportedly related to the Ambani family through marriage and close to the Adanis, as per a Times of India report, Patel has served as a crucial link between the government and the corporate world and has been a part of the Gujarat government's claim of increasing development in the state.
Shifted from his previous constituency of Botad to Akota in order to ensure his electoral victory in this election, Patel is seen by some as being next in line in the state due to the ill health of Anandiben Patel but doesn't wear his ambition on his sleeve.
"These are all figment of the media's imagination. Narendra Modi is our leader and we only want to talk of 2012. Neither the past nor the future," Patel told CNN IBN.
However, while Patel might just be a front runner presently, it may be premature to write off Anandiben, whom Modi has been reportedly grooming as his successor for far longer. Her health and Modi's performance in this elections could be the deciding factors on whether Patel will get the top job in the state.
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