Bhupendra Rajnikant Patel: A soft and firm ‘grandfather’ at the helm of Gujarat
Patel won from the Ghatlodia constituency by a staggering margin of 1.91 lakh votes in the Gujarat Assembly elections this time.
Published: 11th December 2022 09:24 AM | Last Updated: 11th December 2022 09:24 AM | A+A A-
AHMEDABAD: He is a ‘grandfather’ for his constituents, and a ‘boy next door’ for the residents of his old neighbourhood. Political experts see him as the captain who has managed to keep the ship steady while the storm passed. Prime Minister Narendra Modi commends him for being mrudu (soft) as well as makkam (firm).
Bhupendra Rajnikant Patel arrived on the grand scene suddenly. In a state that’s constantly under the shadow of the two most influential politicians in the country today, he became a quiet force in one year, during which he steered the party through crests and troughs. Patel won from the Ghatlodia constituency by a staggering margin of 1.91 lakh votes in the Gujarat Assembly elections this time.
Patel’s name, however, did not sound familiar to many outside his region until August 2021, when he became yet another surprise pick of the Modi-Shah leadership to take up a top post. After the resignation of the then Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani, amid the raging speculations about his successor’s name, it was with much curiosity that the Bharatiya Janata Party MLAs assembled at the party headquarters in Gandhinagar.
Senior BJP leaders Narendra Singh Tomar and Tarun Chugh had landed in Gujarat as observers to finalise the CM candidate’s name. Rupani and state BJP president CR Patil reached the venue on the day of the announcement. Patel took a seat in the last row of the hall. He had no inkling that it would be his name being announced. Patel was sworn in as the 17th chief minister of Gujarat on September 13, 2021. His selection was said to be the BJP brass’ bid to reach out to the Patidar voters. Patel belongs to the Kadva Patidar community, considered the party’s core vote bank.
Over the next few months, the 60-year-old politician did not disappoint the leadership, or his supporters, many of whom describe him as someone who makes decisions slowly and steadily. Under his leadership, Gujarat has tackled floods, public protests over several issues, the outbreak of lumpy skin disease, a hooch tragedy that left 42 people dead in the dry state, and huge hauls of heroin at the Mundra port. Just before the Assembly election, brickbats came in quick succession with the remission of the life sentences of the 11 convicts in the Bilkis Bano case, and the Morbi bridge collapse. Patel kept a calm demeanour throughout, finally seeing the BJP cruise to a massive victory.
Patel, who holds a diploma in civil engineering from Government Polytechnic, Ahmedabad, forayed into social work at an early age. His father, Rajnikant Patel, was a school principal. He now runs Vihan Associates, a construction company managed by Patel’s only son Anuj and son-in-law. The firm, renamed Ansh Construction after Patel’s grandson, handles commercial and residential projects.
Patel spent his childhood at Kadvapol, in Ahmedabad’s Walled City, where people still call him “Kadvapol na Ladkwaya (beloved person of Kadvapol)”. After finishing college, he worked at a private construction company for 3-4 years, before launching Vardan Tower, a residential project in Naranpura, in partnership with eight of his college friends. The RSS member moved out of the Walled City in the 1990s, and began his political career, becoming a member of the Memnagar municipality in 1995-96. He became the chairman of the local body during 1999-2000 and 2004-2006. Later, he served as a corporator from Thaltej ward from 2010 to 2015.
Patel, considered a loyalist of Uttar Pradesh Governor and former Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel, became a legislator for the first time in 2017, winning the election from Ghatlodia with 1,17,000 votes.
Under Patel’s leadership, the BJP has performed well in the two elections it faced: the Gandhinagar Municipal Corporation, and the 9,000 gram panchayats. While the BJP won 41 of the 44 seats in the civic body, it is estimated to have bagged over 70% of the gram panchayat seats. In the recent Assembly election, 19 out of the 20 ministers have won.
A man of few words, Patel is also a yoga enthusiast, and enjoys playing badminton and cricket. The people of Gujarat are likely to have higher hopes now, since unlike his last innings, Patel would be on a familiar pitch this time.