Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel’s decision to resign was by any account inevitable. She realised that her continuance had become politically untenable as an impression had gained ground that the shoes of chief minister that fitted her predecessor so well did not suit her at all. Her downfall began with the Patidars, who were once the backbone of the BJP, demanding reservation and the violent incidents that sparked it. The recent Dalit protest turned out to be the last nail in the coffin of her leadership. Before the demand for her resignation could gather momentum, she made use of Narendra Modi’s favourite formula — no one above 75 should hold a ministerial job — to leave the office.
When Patel was nominated to the post which fell vacant following Modi’s election as prime minister, many were taken by surprise as they doubted her capability to run the administration and control the party which, before the advent of Modi, was a house divided against itself. Some people grow with the job but in her case, she remained confined to her office while the party became inactive. And when the young Patidars showed the violent streak in them, she remained clueless, though she herself is a Patidar. She did not know how vigilantes were taking the law into their own hands until Dalit boys were tortured for skinning a dead cow. By the time she reached the place to take control of the situation, Kejriwal and Rahul had already come and gone.
In a way, Patel was more sinned against than sinning. There were powerful politicians in the state who did not want her to become successful. As a result, the Gujarat BJP is in a shambles with the Congress regaining foothold and the AAP seeking to make inroads in the State. If the BJP does not find a Modi-II to replace her, Gujarat is as good as gone from its grip. It would be a big blow to Modi whose claim to fame rests on Gujarat. The State elections scheduled next year could be more important than UP polls.