With 15 months to go before the assembly elections, Bhupendra has the colossal task of reversing the setbacks suffered by the BJP in the 2017 elections, when it lost some 13 congressional seats in its own stronghold of Saurashtra.
Later, the saffron party recouped some losses, but it was mainly due to some high-ranking congressional leaders like Kunwarji Bavaliya and Jawahar Chavda, crossing the aisle to take ministerial positions in the Rupani Government.
The BJP regained significant electoral ground in local body polls last year by winning all 31 district panchayats, nearly 180 out of 260 taluka panchayats, and all municipal corporations.
Bhupendra, the 59-year-old rookie politician, is said to be a moderate face of Patidar. On the contrary, outgoing MP CM Nitin Patel, who had negotiated for the financial portfolio after two days of bad temper in 2018, considers himself inflexible on many issues.
In addition to Patidars, Bhupendra is closely associated with the Dada Bhagwan Foundation, a spiritual organization, which has a large following in Gujarat. In fact, his followers affectionately call him “Dada”.
The selection of the former chairman of AUDA also points to the bewilderment of BJP after the stellar show of Aam Aadmi Party in Municipal Corporation of Surat (SMC) elections earlier this year. AAP workers have also started aggressive groundwork in northern Gujarat and Saurashtra.
Naresh Patel, President of Khodaldham Temple Trust, the influential Leuva Patel religious organization, had been a member of a Patidar as CM after Rupani’s departure.
In fact, when interacting with reporters in June, he had criticized the state government’s handling of the Covid-19 situation while praising the AAP government of Delhi. He could not be reached for comment despite repeated attempts.
Ramesh Tilala, Administrator of Khodaldham Trust, told TOI: “It is a pride that Gujarat has a Patidar CM. However, we are a religious and social organization that considers all communities equal. We fly the national flag in our temple and devotees of all castes come to seek the blessings of Maa Khodal. ”
Recently, the Union Health Minister, Mansukh Mandaviya, a strong man from Leuva Patel, had tried to calm community sentiments and described the relationship between Patidars and BJP as that of “an umbilical cord and a navel”.
In the rise of Bhupendra, the BJP has also sought to neutralize the potential impact of Hardik Patel, the leading fighter of Patidar’s quota stirring, who joined Congress and became its acting president. The young leader of Kadva Patel still has a strong following among the youth of the community and the BJP cannot afford to monitor the chances of him influencing the votes in favor of Congress in 2022.
TG Jhalawadia, Vice President of Sardardham, said: “Bhupendrabhai has worked hard to Sardardham and Vishwa Umiya Foundation and has made an immense contribution to the well-being of the community. But he is a man of all communities, who believes in doing good to all the people of Gujarat. Therefore, you should not be seen as the leader of a particular community. He is a man of integrity and absolute honesty. ”