In a surprise move reportedly at the behest of central BJP leadership, Gujarat Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel late Saturday evening stripped two cabinet ministers of their key portfolios amid allegations of corruption by the opposition Congress and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP).
With the elections approaching, the stripping of former Speaker Rajendra Trivedi from Vadodara and Purnesh Modi from Surat of crucial portfolios, revenue and roads and buildings respectively, has set political tongues wagging.
It was during a public function when Gujarat BJP chief CR Paatil was making a speech, his PA interrupted him and handed over his cell phone. Paatil abruptly rushed to a corner and talked to the caller and didn’t return to complete his speech.
Sources claim the call was from Prime Minister Narendra Modi and guess that he was asked to ensure these two portfolios of the ministers were taken away and this was implemented Saturday itself. Paatil is believed to be close to the Prime Minister and was his key backroom boy during the Varanasi Lok Sabha election.
Trivedi and Purnesh Modi are among the 10 cabinet-rank ministers in the Bhupendra Patel government. While Trivedi now has disaster management, law and justice and parliamentary affairs as his portfolios, while Modi is left with civil aviation and tourism and pilgrimage.
Both revenue and roads and buildings portfolios have been retained by the Chief Minister, while MoS (Home) Harsh Sanghavi from Surat has been entrusted revenue as MoS and MoS (Industries & Forest and Environment) Jagdish Panchal has been given additional charge of roads and buildings.
While the State Government is tight-lipped about the reason for this sudden decision, opposition parties, Congress and AAP, on Sunday demanded that the provocation to remove both these ministers should be made public and that this could not be an internal matter of the BJP.
"Trivedi and Modi are senior ministers and so the people of Gujarat have every right to know why the CM removed them so unceremoniously," Gujarat Congress chief spokesperson Manish Doshi told reporters.
AAP national joint secretary Indranil Rajguru this decision could not be an internal matter of the BJP since this was related to the government and affected the people at large.
Rajguru asserted, "On behalf of the people of Gujarat, I want to ask the BJP the reason for removing these ministers from key departments. Is it because of some differences between CR Paatil and the chief minister? Is the Gujarat government run from Delhi? People have every right to know."
Congress’ Doshi alleged, “The BJP came to power in Gujarat in 2017 with the promise to remove corruption, but continued to encourage corruption. Less than a year ago, the BJP sacked the entire state cabinet but corruption has continued."
"Changing two ministers will not stop corruption in the state. Even changing the entire cabinet did not change the nature of loot," he claimed. If the government's intention is clear, then it should let us know where Trivedi and Modi failed, Doshi said.
Rajguru alleged both the ministers were removed either because they took decisions in favour of the public or because of corruption.
Doshi went a step further to allege that the revenue department run by Trivedi was the "epicentre of corruption" and the minister found evidence of corruption by senior BJP leaders and so was stripped of the revenue portfolio.
The Congress leader alleged that Purnesh Modi was removed because he had started awarding construction contracts to people close to him and not those he was “asked (by the leadership)” to give to.
Patel had replaced Vijay Rupani as the chief minister last September when the entire Gujarat cabinet was asked to resign by the top BJP leadership.
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