NEW DELHI: Seventeen months ahead of polls to the Gujarat Assembly, Chief Minister Anandiben Patel resigned from her position on Monday to let the BJP choose a new leader for the State. She put in her papers saying she would soon be 75 years old, a cut-off for ministerial posts according to the Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s policy.
However, party sources say that her handling of various agitations, and poor show in December civic polls led to a dip in the party’s popularity. The Patel and Dalit agitations were proving to be a headache for the BJP in Gujarat, a State the party cannot afford to lose as it was nurtured by Prime Minister Modi for more than a decade.
BJP chief Amit Shah said he would place the resignation before the party’s highest decision-making body, which will then take a call. Interestingly, Patel’s resignation came on a day the Supreme Court rejected a petition requesting re-examining of Amit Shah’s role in Sohrabuddin encounter case. However, Shah had on earlier occasions denied his return to the State as the Chief Minister. The other top contender for the post is Nitinbhai Patel, the current Health Minister of Gujarat. Speculations were rife in May that Anandiben would be replaced by Nitinbhai Patel as the Chief Minister. When a few people congratulated Nitinbhai on his likely elevation, he had even accepted their greetings, suggesting he was given an indication by the party, a source said. Among other contenders were the State BJP chief Vijay Rupani, and the State Finance Minister Saurabh Patel.
“Those who attain the age of 75 must voluntarily step down from their ministerial post. This is a tradition in the party now,” said Anandiben in a Facebook post on Monday. “I will attain the age of 75 in November. I have been requesting the party over the last two months to relieve me of the post,” she said. Anandiben was handpicked to lead the State, after Modi became the PM in May 2014.