Ahead of polls, Gujarat faces a leadership vacuum

Virendra Pandit Gandhinagar | Updated on January 12, 2018 Published on February 08, 2017

Patidar leader Hardik Patel with Shiv Sena president Uddhav Thackeray in Mumbai on Tuesday. Vijay Bate

BJP, Cong, AAP remain weak at the top; Hardik Patel’s flip-flops don’t inspire

Somewhat like Navjot Singh Siddhu, who left the BJP, flirted with the AAP and found himself in the Congress recently, Hardik Patel has successively veered towards the Congress, AAP and Janata Dal (U), before becoming the face of Uddhav Thackaray’s Shiv Sena in Gujarat — something he virtually denied on Tuesday itself.

Few now care to take Hardik’s political flip-flops seriously but his ‘commitment’ to struggle for reservation in education and government jobs for his Patidar community still draws youth as he criss-crosses Gujarat and other States in an attempt to stitch together an anti-BJP platform.

He has also declared that at 23 he cannot contest any election and will have to wait another two years. This doesn’t help the fact that there is a leadership vacuum in the State, which faces Assembly polls later this year.

More than a century after it gave India its tallest leader in Mahatma Gandhi, Gujarat now finds itself bereft of inspiring leadership in any political party whatsoever. It is in this stark socio-political vacuum that the State has been rocked by sex and other scandals recently.

If Jayesh Patel, a 65-year-old BJP leader and founder of Parul University in Vadodara, was arrested in a rape case, “sadhvi” Jaishri is behind bars in a multi-crore extortion and blackmailing racket.

In December 2016, police arrested, among others, Chirayu Amin, ex-IPL chief and CMD of Alembic Pharmaceuticals Ltd, in a liquor case. And last week, a mass rape case came to light, involving dozens of people, in Nalia, Kutch district.

The ruling BJP, if anything, can console itself with the TINA factor — There Is No Alternative. After the departure of then CM Narendra Modi to New Delhi as the Prime Minister in May 2014, the party has virtually become leaderless and rudderless. It has changed two Chief Ministers in as many years. Anandiben Patel did provide a modicum of leadership, but the multiple agitations — by the Patidars, Dalits and OBCs — forced the BJP to replace her, but only with an even weaker leader in Vijay Rupani.

The Patidars’ pro-quota agitation, launched in July 2015, not only lost steam, but also some of its early leaders due to its own internal contradictions and some deft ‘machinations’ by the ruling party. But BJP MLAs, particularly the Patel ministers, continue to be a worried lot as the western State, which perfected the two-party system in the 1990s, gears up for elections.

Several factions

The Congress has also not exactly excelled itself as an opposition party. Its various factions — led by Shankarsinh Vaghela, Siddharth Patel, Arjun Modhvadia et al — continue to snipe at PCC chief, Bharatsinh Solanki. Only the visits of the party’s central leaders bring them together at Gujarat PCC “headquarters” here, which otherwise wears a deserted look.

The AAP, which tried to fill this political vacuum, has itself been without a State-level leader or even a party office. But party leaders hope Kumar Vishwas will revive the sagging fortunes after the Punjab and Goa polls.

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Published on February 08, 2017
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