Rasheeda Bhagat

Rupani’s exit isn’t going to shake the BJP

Rasheeda Bhagat | Updated on September 13, 2021

Rupani: Made a scapegoat?   -  The Hindu

Only a totally united Opposition can make a dent in the BJP’s hold over the country

Is the BJP on a shaky wicket in Gujarat, once the most precious jewel in its crown, is the natural question that has popped up after the replacement of Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani with a first-time BJP MLA, Bhupendra Patel.

That the soft-spoken and mild-mannered Rupani — compare his operating style with the shrill-toned UP strongman Yogi Adityanath — has been replaced by a newcomer is ample proof that the party high command has decided to take control of Gujarat.

As the December 2022 Assembly elections approach, the apparent disenchantment of the Gujarat janata with the BJP, now needs to be addressed by a charm-offensive from Prime Minister Narendra Modi himself, is the clear message.

After Anandiben, Rupani has learnt that Modi’s shoes are too large to fill. That he lasted five long years in Ahmedabad is tribute enough for the man.

Of the many reasons attributed for Rupani’s exit, one is that he is too “mild” in his ways. A sarcastic tweet hit home, saying: “Don’t recollect bodies floating down the Sabarmati. So how come the ‘High Command’ praises one and sacks another?” The reference to the Covid corpses floating down the Ganga in UP can’t be missed!

Covid fiasco

Surely the sorry state of Gujarat’s health -care infrastructure, exposed even prior to the second wave of Covid, did him in. The way in which Ahmedabad, long marketed as India’s wonder city, floundered in dealing with the pandemic, earned the BJP government several black marks. Rupani was also blamed for doing little to boost the State’s economy and ease his people’s economic stress. Add to this the infighting within the State unit of the BJP, and the CM’s exit became inevitable.

The beleaguered Opposition of course got a shot in the arm, as Rupani became the fourth BJP CM to be replaced within six months. The other three being Tirath Singh Rawat and Pushkar Singh Dhami in Uttarakhand and BS Yediyurappa in Karnataka. The last put up a spirited fight, but finally had to step down.

While the Gujarat gaddi is still far away for any Opposition party, the salivating has started, and triumphant Opposition leaders are already declaring a victory — at least on Twitter.

Both the Aam Admi Party and the Congress have triumphally tweeted that Rupani’s exit shows the end of BJP’s rule in Gujarat. A buoyant AAP has recalled how it had “breached BJP’s citadel” and won 27 seats in Surat’s municipal corporation polls in February 2021. Of course this was at the expense of the Congress, which drew a blank in that election, whereas the BJP actually strengthened its position with 93 seats.

But the worrying factor for the BJP is the entry of a new party in what has essentially been a two-party State. AAP MLA Raghav Chadha tweeted that it had “forced BJP to remove its CM”.

Trinamool Congress MP Derek O’Brien tweeted: “Is anyone counting? ‘The Two’ really think CM stands for Chairs Musical”. While Congress MP KC Venugopal has claimed that through Rupani’s removal the BJP had at last “agreed that its government has failed in dealing with Covid and people’s issues”.

The TMC, being the only Opposition party which had cocked a snook at the BJP in the recent Bengal elections, went for the jugular with its Rajya Sabha MP Sukhendu Sekhar Roy straight-away attacking PM Modi and “wondering” why the PM was “not quitting despite the all-round failure of BJP to rule the country?”

But here’s a reality check; even though the replacement of four BJP CMs gives the Opposition, at best a lame duck one at the moment, something to celebrate, heart of heart they all know that for now Dilli door ast.

Economic distress

Only a totally united Opposition can make a dent in the BJP’s hold over the country. Granted there is economic distress, there was huge mismanagement in the handling of the pandemic, right from the announcement of the first lockdown which literally threw millions of migrant workers to the wolves, to the crumbling of the country’s health infrastructure when the second wave of Covid peaked.

Despite all this, given the complexities of State politics, which pit the Congress against regional parties in so many States, and present the grotesque and impossible prospect of, say, a DMK and AIADMK coming together in an Opposition alliance for general elections, the BJP continues to be a powerful monolith. The exit of a Rupani or Yediyurappa may make for great tweets, but little beyond that. At least for now.

Published on September 13, 2021

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