Anandiben Patel has “offered” to resign as chief minister of Gujarat triggering speculation in political circles over whether this only marks an end to her personal political career or also the beginning of the end of the BJP’s nearly two-decade long uninterrupted rule over Gujarat, a state claimed by the sangh parivar as its “successful laboratory of Hindutva”.
In her Facebook post today Patel claims to have written to the BJP high command saying it’s time for her to go as she is nearing the 75-years age limit for party leaders set by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. She also claimed her departure will give time for the new CM to rise and shine during the ‘Vibrant Gujarat Summit’ scheduled for January 2017.
Political observers however believe the outpouring of Dalit rage, the already agitated Patidar community and the Aam Admi Party’s growing footprint in the state have together forced Patel and the party high command to read the writing on the wall.
The state has been rocked with extensive Dalit protests after four Dalit youths were brutally beaten for skinning a dead cow. Another Dalit youth committed suicide on Sunday after consuming poison to protest the Una beatings. At least 18 Dalit youth have attempted suicide in the state following the attacks.
Hardik Patel, the Patidar leader who had earlier paralysed the state government over its demand for reservations for the Patel community, was released from jail a fortnight ago, after nine months. He has been ordered to stay out of the state for another nine months but the Patidar leader has vowed to continue his struggle to obtain OBC status for the Patel community.
In the 2002 anti-Muslim carnage in Gujarat under the watch of then state chief minister, Narendra Modi, Dalits had been deployed as foot soldiers. But history seemed to take a U-turn on July 27 when a large number of Dalits and Muslims marched together in Naroda Patia, down the same streets which had witnessed the worst massacre of Muslims in the state in 2002. As significantly, Muslims joined thousands of Dalits at the mega-convention in Ahmedabad on Sunday to protest against the Una outrage.
Earlier this month, AAP leader and Delhi CM, Arvind Kejriwal was in Gujarat with his “one booth, 10 youth” campaign to dislodge the BJP from power.
Is Patel’s impending departure a precursor to the BJP’s humbling at the Assembly elections due next year?