First-time ministers under first-time CM: BJP’s Gujarat experiment a template for state polls?


Express News Service

GANDHINAGAR: The swearing in of the Bhupendra Patel cabinet on Thursday once again underlined a known fact in political circles. Gujarat has always been used as a laboratory by the RSS and the BJP for their political experiments, and this time was no different. 

All the newly-inducted ministers are taking up the role for the first time and this mega experiment seems to be a calculated step that has been taken with the upcoming assembly polls of 2022 in mind. 

The 24 new ministers were administered the oath of office by Gujarat Governor Acharya Devvrat at Raj Bhavan on Thursday. As mentioned, they are all first-time ministers. 

The oath-taking ceremony was attended by former chief minister Vijay Rupani, BJP Gujarat unit president CR Patil, former deputy chief minister Nitin Patel and Union minister Bhupendra Yadav among others.

“Congratulations to all Party colleagues who have taken oath as Ministers in Gujarat Government. These are outstanding Karyakartas who have devoted their lives to public service and spreading our Party’s development agenda. Best wishes for a fruitful tenure ahead” tweeted PM Narendra Modi shortly after the ceremony. 

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Bhupendra Yadav, union minister and senior BJP leader, said a combination of factors influenced the composition of the new council of ministers in Gujarat. “We have included the fresh, young and experienced faces in the new cabinet of Bhupendra Patel. They may not have ministerial experience but they have got enough administrative experience and this will help the government excel in every field. The talent and experience of the former ministers will be used for the expansion of the party’s base,” Yadav said.

The decision-makers in the BJP have ensured that the delicate balance of caste, region, community, and gender has not been upset. The list of ministers is dominated by a significant number of Patidars and OBCs.

Like chief minister Bhupendra Patel earlier, most ministers in the new cabinet were surprised when they got a call from state BJP unit chief CR Patil confirming that they were to be sworn in.

A senior journalist and political analyst from the state said PM Modi is known for his big decisions and innovations in politics.

“In 2005, after taking charge as the Gujarat chief minister, Narendra Modi flatly refused to field the incumbent members of the local bodies in the elections. He fielded all new faces and that gamble paid off as BJP ended up winning a majority of seats. Since then, this new experiment is carried out first in Gujarat and then in other states,” he said, while requesting anonymity.

“It is interesting to see how someone with zero ministerial experience has been made the chief minister and given an all-new ministerial council ahead of the 2022 Gujarat state assembly polls. Prime Minister Narendra Modi is confident that he will sail through using his charisma and the high-voltage campaign strategy of Amit Shah,” he added.

There was at least one unhappy voice. Mansukh Vasava, BJP Lok Sabha MP from Baruch expressed his displeasure over the non-inclusion of any BJP MLA from his region in the new cabinet. Vasava said that all districts of Gujarat had got representation in the council of ministers but not Baruch district.

“The party has done injustice to Baruch district. Our district has a fair number of BJP MLAs and despite that, there is no representation in the new cabinet. And those districts with no BJP MLA have been given space. There is unrest among the party workers and it will have political consequences in the polls. I am not against the party but it should have been inclusive,” Vasava said.

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