Dissenting Voices: Are Modi, Shah Losing Grip Over Gujarat?
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Gujarat seems to be stuck in a quagmire, with senior leaders openly expressing dissent over distribution of Cabinet portfolios.
First came Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel, who was miffed with the portfolios allocated to him, and now it’s the turn of Minister of State for Fisheries Parshottam Solanki.
Solanki has issued veiled threats that he may resign if his community (OBC Koli) insists.
The current predicament clearly shows that the top leadership of the BJP is losing grip on Gujarat. Though the state has remained the BJP’s bastion for over two decades, dissent was never expressed in such a wanton manner by the state leaders of the saffron party.
Up until now.
Modi and Shah’s duopoly ensured that the BJP reigned in Gujarat for over 22 years. Modi was the undisputed face of the party in the state, while Shah was the muscle that controlled dissenting voices within the ranks and ensured that the BJP remained united.
In fact, during their hay days in Gujarat, none of the senior party leaders or MLAs dared question the decisions taken by Modi and/or Shah. In 2014, this unbeatable team got the national stamp of approval when Modi became the Prime Minister and ensured Shah succeeded as the national president of the BJP.
The duo continued their magic across several states which went to polls since 2014, and managed to bring them under the saffron fold either through landslide majorities or through backroom negotiations with opposing party MLAs.
Through all this, they made sure Gujarat continued to remain their fortress.
Nitin Patel’s Veiled Threats
The 2017 Assembly election results in Gujarat not only reflected unprecedented anti-incumbency piled on for over two decades, which Modi and Shah fought tooth and nail against, the slim margin of victory also brought to the fore the deep divide among its senior leaders.
Shah, who is known to handle such matters deftly, for the first time relented to the demands made by Nitin Patel, who openly dissented over the allocation of portfolios. Patel was vocal during a press conference last week, when he said that Shah called him at 7.30 am and requested him to take charge of the Finance Ministry.
What Patel doesn’t realise is that he unknowingly created an avenue for other BJP MLAs to raise their voice. Modi and Shah are now focused on the 2019 general elections, and any dissent coming from their home state, which the BJP retained with a narrow margin, could dent the party’s unified image.
Solanki, who hails from the OBC Koli community, has won five successive Assembly elections and was appointed the Minister of State for Fisheries, the portfolio which he previously held. He has demanded additional departments and has made a push for a Cabinet berth as well. He claims that he has only been handed the fisheries portfolio, which he considers quite inadequate, because he has been charged for the Rs 400-crore fisheries scam.
Emboldened from Nitin Patel’s public dissent, perhaps, Solanki said that the Koli community in the state – which forms a strong majority in Saurashtra’s costal districts – wants more portfolios for the state’s only Koli minister.
Eventually, the Koli vote bank worked in favour of Solanki, who has been promised a Cabinet berth by the top brass of the BJP.
Another MLA ‘Disappointed’
Now that Solanki has made his displeasure clear, other leaders too could soon join the bandwagon. The MLA from Shahera, Jetha Bharwad, has expressed his disappointment as he was not given any portfolio. However, the five-time MLA claimed that his workers are disappointed and not him.
Amit Shah runs the BJP with an iron fist, but his grip is weakening in Gujarat and the party must keep a united front before the 2019 elections. For the Congress, it is a golden opportunity to bring dissenting BJP MLAs over to the Grand Old Party.