Bhupendra Patel, Bharatiya Janata Party’s soft-spoken face in Gujarat, will be sworn in for second term as state chief minister on December 12. State BJP president C R Paatil said this on Thursday after the party swept the Gujarat Assembly elections, trouncing rivals Congress and Aam Aadmi Party.
Bhupendra Patel retained the Ghatlodia seat, which is a part of the Gandhinagar Lok Sabha constituency represented by Union minister Amit Shah. Fondly called as ‘Dada’ by many, he is considered to be close to Anandiben Patel.
A dedicated party worker, who made his way up in the state politics from the municipality level, Patel was a surprise choice for the top post when the BJP went in for a regime change, replacing the entire ministry a year before the elections.
When the BJP decided to replace Vijay Rupani and bring in a Patel community face as the chief minister, Patel emerged the winner, leaving others, including the then deputy chief minister Nitin Patel, behind.
Prior to becoming the CM in September 2021, Bhupendra Patel was not a known face outside Ahmedabad and even within party circles. The surprise choice of the party has in the last one year taken some tough decision to establish himself as the leader in Gujarat.
BJP has already announced that he will be CM if the party gets majority in the state for the seventh time in a row. In the opinion polls too, he emerged as the first choice of people of Gujarat to lead the state.
The Patidars are a dominant caste in Gujarat with a sizeable control over the electoral votes and dominate the state politics with a stronghold over education, realty and cooperative sectors. In 2017, due to the Patidar quota agitation, the BJP managed to get just 99 seats, its lowest tally since 1995. It was important for the party to win back this section of voters.
Patel’s elevation and his subsequent projection as chief ministerial face – he is the first from the Kadva Patidar sub-group to be the CM – is key to BJP’s plans to woo the Kadva Patidar community, which some political observers feel, has drifted away from the party.
Born in Ahmedabad, Patel is an MLA from the Ghatlodia seat, previously held by former chief minister and now Uttar Pradesh Governor Anandiben Patel. He won the seat by over 1.17 lakh votes in 2017, the highest margin in that poll.
In the past, Patel had served as the chairman of Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority (AUDA) between 2015 and 2017. Before that, he was also the standing committee chairman of Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation (AMC), the largest urban local body in Gujarat, between 2010 and 2015. People close to him know Patel, who holds a diploma in civil engineering, as a smiling face, who is well-connected to the grassroots.
Before contesting the Assembly election, he was active in local politics and became a member of the Memnagar Municipality in Ahmedabad district, serving as its president twice. Patel is also a trustee of Sardardham Vishwa Patidar Kendra, an organisation dedicated to the socio-economic development of the Patidar community.
Patel, who is married to Hetalben, a housewife, resides in Ahmedabad’s Shilaj locality. He is drawn to spiritual activities, and plays games like cricket and badminton.