Ahmedabad: Gujarat has seen days and years where the larger than life persona of Narendra Modi would dwarf all considerations of caste, class or regional aspirations in political decisions. Two immediate instances are Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, who represents a miniscule Jain community, and State BJP president CR Paatil, who is a non-Gujarati though may have spent most working years in the State.
Those days are apparently a matter of the past. This was evident when he picked three new faces from Gujarat and elevated two ministers of state to Cabinet rank, in a balancing act of caste and regional aspirations.
Minister of State for Chemicals, Fertilisers and Shipping Mansukh Mandaviya has not only been elevated as a Cabinet minister but given the crucial health portfolio too. And Minister of State for Agriculture Parshottam Rupala became a cabinet minister for Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying.
Both represent two powerful Patidar sections of Leuvas and Kadvas respectively and are from politically important Saurashtra region. Mandaviya’s name often did the rounds whenever there was speculation of replacing Vijay Rupani.
This is an attempt to consolidate the Patidar votebank, especially when the Aam Aadmi Party is trying woo the community, while the Congress has also managed Patidar votes in several pockets after the Hardik Patel agitation of 2017. While Mandaviya and Rupala have earlier stated that a Patel should be the chief minister, more recently a key Patidar community leader Naresh Patel also stated it and went to the extent of praising the AAP.
In fact, the AAP’s recent Surat Municipal Corporation victory as principal opposition party came from Patidar dominated areas in the diamond city.
Similarly, in picking two-time MP from Kheda in central Gujarat Devusinh Chauhan and first-timer Mahendra Munjapara from Surendranagar is aimed at regional and caste aspirations.
"There is no representation from central Gujarat in the union ministry and then Chauhan represents the OBC Kshatriya caste, to which former Gujarat Congress president Bharatsinh Solanki and the present incumbent Amit Chavda belong. And both are from this region,” points out political analyst Vidyut Joshi. “Chauhan is a man to watch out for,” opines Joshi.
Similarly, he adds, “Munjapara represents the Koli Patel community which has a sizable population in Gujarat. The BJP has Purshottam Solanki from Bhavnagar (a Koli Patel) but is now a spent force. Secondly, Munjapara defeated a veteran like Soma Ganda Patel with a good margin.”
Surat MP Darshana Jardosh has been made a minister to ensure the diamond and textile city has a representation in the union ministry, especially after the AAP plans its Gujarat sojourn from here. And quite strategically, she has been made the Union Minister of State for Textiles besides railways.
This comes days after a veteran tribal leader also from South Gujarat, Mangubhai Patel, was appointed Madhya Pradesh Governor and a year after Navsari MP (South Gujarat) CR Paatil was made the party chief in Gujarat.
“It is also clear that Modi wants to carve out a parallel stronghold to the Saurashtra region in South Gujarat extending to central Gujarat, given that there have been various caste divisions and the Patidars dominating Saurashtra are no longer the en bloc votebank that they once were for the BJP,” Vidyut Joshi says.