Keshubhai Patel, CM of Gujarat before Modi, passed away two years ago

Keshubhai Patel was a formidable mass leader for the Jan Sangh and the BJP for decades in Gujarat

FPJ Web DeskUpdated: Saturday, July 23, 2022, 04:06 PM IST
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Former chief minister of Gujarat Keshubhai Patel, left, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi | PTI

The BJP’s first Chief Minister of Gujarat and veteran politician, Keshubhai Patel, passed away in Ahmedabad at the age of 93 years on July 24, 2020.

Patel was rushed to a private hospital in Ahmedabad after he fell unconscious at his residence in Gandhinagar. The nonagenarian had only weeks earlier tested positive for COVID-19, but had recovered.

Keshubhai Patel was a formidable mass leader for the Jan Sangh and the BJP for decades in Gujarat. He became Gujarat chief minister twice but never completed his term.

Early Life

Keshubhai, a Leuva Patidar (Patels), was born Keshubhai Desai, and changed his surname to Patel after he became active in politics. His family is said to have migrated from Vaso village in Nadiad of Kheda district, a village of Patidars, where revenue clerks were known as ‘Desai’.

The family migrated to Saurashtra and ran a flour mill in Rajkot. Jana Sangh veterans like former chief minister Shankersinh Vaghela, who knew Keshubhai for 55 years, says he ran this mill in Hathikhana area of Rajkot for a living, and describes him as a “self-made” man who built the party from scratch.

In Rajkot, he went to Alfred High School, which is also Mahatma Gandhi's alma mater. He joined the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in 1945 as a pracharak. He was imprisoned during the Emergency.

Political Career

During his long political career, Patel, who had begun his political innings with the Jan Sangh, was a six-time member of the State Assembly, member of Rajya Sabha and minister and Chief Minister of the State besides holding the post of leader of the opposition.

After he resigned as Chief Minister in 2001 following the party’s poor performance in local elections and also after a devastating earth quake in which more than 15,000 people died in January 2001, Patel was sent to Rajya Sabha from Gujarat.

In the run up to the Assembly polls in 2012, Patel had floated a regional party Gujarat Parivartan party (GPP), which fared poorly winning only two seats in the State. Before the parliamentary polls in 2014, Patel had resigned as MLA while merging his GPP with BJP.

Subsequently, he retired from political life and devoted his time to Somnath Temple Board where he was chairman of the trust in which Narendra Modi and Amit Shah are also members.

Legacy

As Chief Minister, Patel is credited with pioneering works in building canal networks of the Narmada project to bring water from South Gujarat to water starved Saurashtra and North Gujarat regions.

Both his tenures as CM were marked with political instability which had led to his resignation in 1995 and subsequently from 1998 onwards, with natural calamities like consecutive droughts, massive cyclones and the devastating Bhuj earthquake in 2001.

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