‘Dis­pleased’ Gu­jarat Dy CM yet to take charge of port­fo­lios

The Free Press Journal - - FRONT PAGE - RK MISRA

The old com­rade-in-arms have turned new ad­ver­saries with Chief Min­is­ter Vi­jay Ru­pani and his deputy Nitin Pa­tel at log­ger­heads over dis­tri­bu­tion of the ''plums'' of of­fice in Gu­jarat. With the cri­sis es­ca­lat­ing, the BJP High Com­mand has gone into dam­age con­trol and a se­nior leader is be­ing rushed to Gu­jarat to soothen ruf­fled feath­ers, more-so af­ter Congress be­gan fan­ning the flames terming it an ex­am­ple of in­jus­tice to the Pati­dar com­mu­nity.

While the chief min­is­ter kept on play­ing the all-is-well tune, it was his sulk­ing deputy who let it be known that his self-re­spect has not been hon­oured and ab­stained from at­tend­ing of­fice af­ter the first Cabi­net meet­ing on Thurs­day night where the al­lo­ca­tion of port­fo­lios was an­nounced.

The deputy chief min­is­ter has cause to be up­set since the al­lo­ca­tion of new port­fo­lios saw his charges dras­ti­cally re­duced. He was left with Roads and Build­ings, health and Kal­pasar project with the key fi­nance, en­ergy and petro­chem­i­cals go­ing to Sau­rabh Pa­tel who re­turns to Cabi­net af­ter be­ing dropped from Ru­pani's pre­vi­ous min­istry. He also lost the im­por­tant charge of Ur­ban De­vel­op­ment. Nitin Pa­tel was at pains to say that it was not merely about de­part­ments but more about his self-re­spect.

The is­sue of re­duc­tion of the port­fo­lios of the deputy chief min­is­ter found echoes both within the party and out­side as it trans­formed into a case of yet an­other in­jus­tice to the Pati­dars by the BJP. No sooner did Hardik Pa­tel, con­venor of the Pati­dar Ana­mat An­dolan Samiti (PAAS) clas­sify it as such and urge Nitin Pa­tel to switch sides to the Congress along with 10 leg­is­la­tors, that Pati­dar lead­ers with the BJP also jumped into the tug of

war, de­mand­ing that Ru­pani be re­placed by Nitin Pa­tel as chief min­is­ter.

Be­sides Hardik, se­nior Congress leader Virji Thum­mar, who was elected to the state As­sem­bly from Am­reli, of­fered Congress sup­port from out­side if Nitin was pre­pared to break away from the BJP with his sup­port­ers and form a min­istry in the state. Hardik, though is not mem­ber of the Congress, gave a sim­i­lar of­fer. “If Nit­inbhai is ready to quit BJP, I will talk to the Congress lead­ers to en­sure that he get a bet­ter post than the deputy chief min­is­ter­ship given by the BJP,” Hardik said in Bo­tad, near Bhav­na­gar, where he was par­tic­i­pat­ing in a “Chin­tan Shibir” of

the PAAS to pre­pare the fu­ture course of ac­tion.

Ru­pani avoided com­ment on the Nitin af­fair, but his deputy told his sup­port­ers that he would not quit BJP. “I have in­formed the party high com­mand about my feel­ings and even spo­ken to Amitb­hai (Shah). I ex­pect a positive re­sponse.

A large num­ber of BJP work­ers be­long­ing to the Pati­dar com­mu­nity staged de­mon­stra­tions in Ahmedabad, Ra­jkot and sev­eral other parts of the state de­mand­ing that Nitin be made the chief min­is­ter. Lalji Pa­tel, the con­venor of the Sar­dar Pa­tel Group (SPG), which backed the PAAS in the quota stir, called on the sulk­ing deputy chief min­is­ter and later told me­dia-per­sons that the SPG would ag­i­tate for mak­ing Nitin the chief min­is­ter. The SPG also gave a call for “Mehsana Bandh,” the As­sem­bly con­stituency of Nitin Pa­tel, on Jan­uary 1 in sup­port of the de­mand for el­e­va­tion of the Pati­dar leader as the chief min­is­ter.

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