Heralding a new term in Gujarat, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) resorted to a show of strength during Chief Minister Vijay Rupani’s swearing-in ceremony in Gandhinagar on Tuesday, 26 December.
In all, 18 chief ministers from BJP-ruled states were present on the dais, including Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, along with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah. Other dignitaries included senior BJP leader LK Advani and Union Ministers Rajnath Singh and Ravi Shankar Prasad.
The ceremony also saw the presence of former BJP stalwarts Keshubhai Patel and Shankersinh Vaghela, as well as former chief minister Anandiben Patel. The ceremony saw 19 ministers take the oath of office, including Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel, at the helipad ground inside the new Secretariat complex in Gandhinagar.
In all, 10 ministers have been retained from the old Cabinet, whereas nine are new ministers.
Patidars Have the Edge
Of the 19 ministers who took oath on Tuesday, six are Patidars and five are from Other Backward Classes (OBC). While three ministers are from Scheduled Tribes (ST), three have been inducted from the Kshatriya community. The Cabinet also consists of one Scheduled Caste person and one Brahmin.
Clearly, the saffron party understands the importance of Patidars and OBCs, keeping in mind the caste equations for the 2019 elections.
By inducting three Scheduled Tribes MLAs, the BJP has ensured that the tribal belt of Gujarat votes in favour of the party in 2019.
The New, the Renewed and the Rejected
The BJP lost six ministers in the recently-concluded Assembly polls, along with House Speaker Ramanlal Vora. As a result, new faces were seen on the dais taking oath. Two-time former state BJP president RC Faldu made his debut along with Kaushik Patel and Ishwarbhai Parmar. Prominent names that have been dropped are Chiman Sapariya, Atmaram Parmar and Babubhai Bokhiria
State Education Minister Bhupindersinh Chudasma, former finance minister Saurabh Patel, Minister for Food, Civil Supply and Consumer Affairs Jayesh Radadiya; Labour and Employment Minister Dilipkumar Thakor, and Tourism and Tribal Welfare Minister Ganpat Vasava were retained in the Cabinet.
Ramanlal Patkar, Parbat Patel, Vasan Ahir, Kishore Kanani, and Vibhavari Dave were sworn in as the new Ministers of State.
Meanwhile, Minister of State for Home Pradisinh Jadeja, Minister of State for Fisheries Parshottam Solanki; Minister of State for Cooperation Ishwarsinh Patel, Minister of State for Animal Husbandry Bachubhai Khabad, and Minister of State for Higher Education Jaydrathsinh Parmar have also been retained by the new government.
The party has also dropped many holding the Minister of State portfolio – Shankar Chaudhury, Jayantibhai Kavadiya, Nanubhai Vanani; Jasha Barad, Vallabh Kakadiya, Rajendra Trivedi, Keshaji Chauhan; Rohit Patel, Vallabh Vaghasiya, Shabdsharan Tadvi, and Nirmala Wadhwani.
The distribution of portfolios will be decided on Wednesday, 27 December.
The General Elections
With the Assembly elections having concluded, the BJP is keen on repeating its performance of 2014 when the Modi-wave swept the state clean. However, looking at the party’s performance in 2017, the same outcome looks unlikely for the saffron party.
The BJP’s agenda is divided between development and Hindutva, which was on display during poll campaigning for the Assembly elections.
Both PM Modi and Amit Shah, who hail from Gujarat, understand that something special is needed to win all the 26 Lok Sabha seats in the state. Political analysts believe that the soft spoken Rupani will not last till the general elections, and will be replaced by someone who can campaign boisterously for the party.
However, there is still time for that change, as the BJP doesn’t want to show chinks in its armour by replacing the sitting Chief Minister with a new man.