A year after sweeping win, internal rife hits Gujarat BJP hard
The exit of two senior leaders comes amid rising discontent within the party, particularly in south Gujarat, against state BJP president CR Patil. The BJP, however, has been cracking down on the anti-Patil faction
The resignation of Gujarat BJP general secretary Pradipsinh Vaghela from all party posts has exposed a deep rot in the state unit of the party, which is plagued by infighting despite sweeping assembly elections only a year ago.
Although the BJP termed the leader’s exit as a voluntary resignation, Vaghela told the media in Ahmedabad that he quit on July 29, after being asked by the party leadership to do so.
Vaghela’s exit comes soon after the ouster of Bhargav Bhatt, a former general secretary of the BJP’s central zone in Gujarat. He was removed from his post by state party chief CR Patil in April without much explanation. The post remains vacant.
While the departure of Vaghela and Bhatt in quick succession is said to be a result of infighting within the BJP’s southern and central zones, it also comes amid rising discontent within the party, particularly in south Gujarat, against party president Patil. The BJP, however, is cracking down on those who are against Patil.
Vaghela, 43, was considered to be one of the most-influential leaders in the state BJP unit. He was appointed as one of the four general secretaries in 2020 when Patil took over as the party chief. Additionally, Vaghela was given the charge of the Ahmedabad city unit, the southern zone unit, as well as the Kamalam, the party headquarters at Koba in Gandhinagar.
Vaghela has two cases of corruption against him, both being investigated by the Special Operations Group (SOG) of the Gujarat Police. One of them pertains to awarding of contracts in Gujarat University while he was a senate member. He is also accused of making money on a land deal for industrial purposes on the outskirts of his hometown Sanand.
However, while Vaghela was considered to be the most popular party leader amongst the four general secretaries and was in line to succeed Patil, whose term as Gujarat BJP chief ended in July this year, he was also one of the prominent voices against Patil. Factionalism within the party had reached a point that Vaghela was not even allowed to enter the party headquarters despite being its in-charge.
Also this month, Alpesh Limbachiya, a BJP corporator from Vadodara, and two of his associates were arrested over defamatory activities against Nilesh Rathod, the mayor and corporator of Vadodara, who is considered to be close to Patil.
Wrongdoing and arrests
The arrests came after Limbachiya penned an eight-point letter alleging corruption by Rathod in local civic work contracts and an alleged nexus with bootleggers in the city.
In south Gujarat, four local leaders were arrested in July on charges of defaming Patil and extorting money from him. The accused had released a video and sent a note to Surat MLA Sandeep Desai stating that one of them had collected ₹80 crore for the party fund but their promised share from this collection was allegedly yet to be paid.
The local leaders were making this same demand to Patil. The four had also distributed pamphlets alleging Patil of misappropriating party funds.
Who is Patil?
Chandrakant Raghunath Patil, a native of Jalgaon district in Maharashtra, became the Gujarat BJP’s first non-Gujarati state president in 2020.
A three-time MP from Navsari seat in south Gujarat, he started his career in the state police department as a constable in 1975. He had to resign from his post in 1984 after allegations of corruption against him.
Patil joined the BJP in 1989 and first held the treasurer's post at the Surat city unit. He later became the city unit's vice-president nd was accused of misappropriating party funds here as well.
However, being a popular leader of the area, he was appointed chairman of the state PSU Gujarat Alkalies and Chemicals Ltd (GACL) by the then chief minister Keshubhai Patel in 1998.
Despite being popular, Patil always had to bear the tag of being the ‘outsider’ in the BJP since most of its chiefs hail from the Patel community. Patil, however, rose through the party ranks despite murmurs of dissent against him for being a Maharashtrian.
Years later, the BJP’s victorious performance in the 2022 state elections under Patil made the 67-year-old politician one of the most formidable leaders in the state BJP and a close confidant of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
After taking charge as president, Patil, however, become known for his aggressive approach towards his colleagues.
In March this year, during the opening of a public relations office of MLA Rameshbhai Mistry at Bharuch, Patil took a dig at Mansukh Vasava, a six-time BJP MP.
Referring to Vasava as “kaan ka kacha” (gullible), Patel said: “Mansukh Bhai discussed the value of the public relations office, yet he has not opened his own office.”
Vasava had been raising questions about the administration in Gujarat but in vain.
A BJP MP told The Federal on the condition of anonymity: “Even after Bhupendra Patel took over as Chief Minister, it was Patil who decided that the Gujarat Cattle Control (Keeping and Moving) Urban Areas Bill 2022, which was widely denounced by the Maldhari (Pastoral) community in the state, should be rolled back. He was also instrumental in cancelling the Par-Tapi-Narmada river interlinking project that had earned the BJP a bad name amongst the tribals of south Gujarat.”
“He also played an important role when two senior cabinet ministers, Rajendra Trivedi and Purnesh Modi, were stripped of their portfolios of revenue and roads and buildings departments respectively following complaints of inefficiency,” added the MP. There is no doubt in anyone's mind that Patil currently enjoys a lot of clout in the Gujarat BJP and is the undisputed boss.