Anandiben Patel's resignation as Gujarat CM is due to BJP's failed Dalit politics

The failure of BJP's Dalit outreach programme in UP, underlined by the Agra disaster, hastened the exit of Anandiben Patel.

Sandipan Sharma August 01, 2016 18:10:46 IST
Anandiben Patel's resignation as Gujarat CM is due to BJP's failed Dalit politics

On Sunday morning, an empty hall greeted BJP leaders in Agra. Just a few days ago, the BJP had dreamt of filling up the hall with 40,000 Dalits and giving a rousing welcome to party chief Amit Shah.

But, its inability to gather even 1000 Dalits in a city that has them in huge numbers, set off a quick chain of political events. The first casualty has come from Gujarat. The state's chief minister Anandiben Patel quit, interestingly, after a posting a note on Facebook. Now, state BJP chief Vijay Rupani will likely take over as CM. Coincidentally, it is Rupani's birthday on Tuesday.

Anandiben Patels resignation as Gujarat CM is due to BJPs failed Dalit politics

Anandiben Patel. PTI

Anandiben Patel's resignation was not a question of 'if' but 'when'. But, the failure of BJP's Dalit outreach programme in UP, underlined by the Agra disaster, hastened her exit.

Under her watch, Gujarat was slipping rapidly away from the BJP's hand. Since the ramification of losing Narendra Modi's bastion would have set off a chain of events that would have been politically disastrous, the BJP just couldn't have continued to twiddle its thumbs in the state. It also needed to give a message to Dalits, especially those in UP, that the BJP was concerned about the growing unrest in the community.

Anandiben had to go.

In a message posted on her Facebook page, the Gujarat CM on Monday announced she has asked the central leadership to relieve her of her duty. Patel said she had tendered her resignation two months ago to give “enough time to the new incumbent to prepare for important events like the upcoming Vibrant Gujarat summit”. The CM said she has asked the party to relieve her a few months before she turns 75.

Patel then proceeded to meet the Gujarat Governor. She also gave a detailed statement on Monday evening.

Gujarat had turned into a veritable mess since last year's Patidar Andolan for reservation that led to massive protests and violence throughout the state.

In the aftermath of the protests, Gujarat's Patidars appeared to be drifting away from the party they had supported for almost two decades. Their 15 percent votes had been the bedrock of the BJP's successive electoral wins in the state.

But, the recent local bodies elections in Gujarat showed that ground beneath the BJP's feet is shifting. In Saurashtra, the BJP suffered major losses in the polls, ceding ground to the Congress.

The very fact that the BJP had failed to retain the support of the Patels in spite of having a politician from the community as the chief minister meant Anandiben's days were numbered.

While the dust was yet to settle on the Patidar Andolan — it is still alive and kicking in Gujarat, ready to erupt when the time is right — Anandiben was rocked by a series of allegations of corruption, especially against her daughter Anar.

For years, BJP had thrived in Gujarat on the reputation of Modi as an incorruptible CM. His 'na khaoonga, na khaane doonga' slogan had paved the way for a mini electoral revolution across India, leading to the UPA's demolition in 2014. Though the BJP brazened out the charges against the CM and her daughter, there remained an undercurrent of discomfort within the party.

Anandiben may still have ploughed on, creating the impression that she would make way for someone else after the next assembly polls, due in around 18 months.

Since Modi believes in giving his trusted lieutenants a long run and doesn't easily give in under pressure, it was widely believed that Anandiben will survive till the elections. The BJP was toying with the idea of retaining her and simultaneously projecting a young leader as her successor after the polls.

But, the Dalit agitation in Gujarat forced the BJP's hand. For the past 15 days, massive protests by Dalits against oppression by upper castes and cow vigilante groups had been giving sleepless nights to the BJP, not just because of the impact on Gujarat but also in many other poll-bound states.

Dalits are just 7 percent of Gujarat's electorate. They have traditionally supported the Congress in Gujarat elections. On paper, their revolt did not appear a big setback to the Gujarat BJP. But the ongoing stir ruined its plans of a massive Dalit outreach in Uttar Pradesh, and effectively demolished the dream of uniting the virat Hindutva parivar in a political coalition.

Somebody had to pay the price for this. Anandiben did.

Ironically, like Smriti Irani, Anandiben was handpicked by Modi for the job. Both have fallen to Dalit politics.

One a victim of her inability to handle the aftermath of Rohith Vemula's suicide. The other of the BJP's dangerous ploy of trying to run with Dalits and hunt with gau rakshaks.

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