Ahmedabad, Aug 1 (IANS) Ending months of speculation, Gujarat’s first woman Chief Minister Anandiben Patel on Monday offered to quit in keeping with the BJP’s “laudable tradition” of leaders vacating their posts as they turn 75.
In a letter to national BJP president Amit Shah, the contents of which she posted on Facebook in Gujarati, Patel says: “I turn 75 in November but I am requesting the party leadership to relieve me now to allow more time to the new incumbent.”
Patel, whose image had taken several beatings during the past over a year, said the state government’s ambitious biennial Vibrant Gujarat global investors meet is scheduled for January while the crucial state assembly elections fall in December 2017. “If I am relieved now, the new Chief Minister will have time to prepare for these two important events.”
Besides criticism for her inept handling of the pitched 10-month-old reservation agitation by the Patels, a caste that has long been a key political constituency of the BJP, her image also took a beating during the more recent Dalit uprising after the flogging of Dalit youths in Una by cow vigilantes, that has led to widespread condemnation. Over 30 Dalit organisations came under one banner to protest atrocities against the community in Gujarat at a massive gathering here on Sunday.
Neither Amit Shah nor state Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) president Vijay Rupani expressed any surprise at this sudden move. Rather they praised “the spirit with which she has made the offer”.
A senior party leader, reacting to the news, said: “Everybody knew this was to come, it was long overdue.”
The Chief Minister, who also read out her Facebook post to local TV channels, said this was her second letter to the leadership to relieve her from the post.
In a tacit confirmation that he knew this was coming, Amit Shah said: “It is quite commendable that she has sought to honour this tradition of the party of leaders retiring at the age of 75.”
He said, “She has been requesting me for quite some time and also wrote to me earlier to relieve her from her responsibilities. But I could not look into her request in view of several other engagements, like the panchayat elections in Gujarat.”
“Now, I will pass on this letter to the party’s central parliamentary board to take a decision. Possible replacements will be discussed by the board.”
While Patel has found a sanctuary in the fact that she turns 75, the party’s central leadership would appreciate the high moral ground she took and thus be spared the trouble of having to remove her.
A Gujarat leader said, “Had she gone just like that, it would mean the central leadership has conceded that she failed.”
Born in 1941, Patel turns 75 on November 21. State BJP chief Vijay Rupani also conceded this as he said, “We are proud of her decision to follow the good traditions being established by our party. Nobody pressured her to quit, this is her own decision.”
The buzz that Anandiben, who took charge on May 23, 2014, would be asked to resign anytime began right since the BJP’s shocking debacle during the crucial elections to the local self-government bodies in the state in December-January last.
However, this was apparently delayed because of the BJP’s impressive performance in several states, like Assam, and then in a few by-elections back home.
Ahmed Patel, Rajya Sabha member from Gujarat and political adviser to Congress president Sonia Gandhi, said the resignation only went to prove that the BJP is headed for defeat in the 2017 Vidhan Sabha elections in Gujarat.
Gurudas Kamat, Congress general secretary incharge of Gujarat, said Anandiben Patel’s resignation was overdue. The BJP leadership tried to protect her for several months in spite of growing unrest among Dalits due to the increasing incidents of atrocities on them and the brutal manner of the handling of the Patidar reservation stir, he said.
“Corruption had also run riot in the state during her rule and it would be like rubbing salt into sore wounds if she is taken into the union cabinet or appointed as a Governor,” he added.
Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) leader and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, reacting to the resignation, termed it as a victory of his party’s crusade against corruption in the Gujarat government.