Who will succeed Modi if he goes to Delhi?
Vaibhavi Parmar list the front-runners in the race to succeed Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi if he opts for a larger national role in the BJP.
Three second-rung leaders in the Gujarat unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party have emerged as the front-runners to succeed Chief Minister Narendra Modi, whose elevation to Delhi is increasingly being spoken of as inevitable.
Anandiben Patel, Purshottam Rupala and Saurabh Patel are in Modi's core group.
Amit Shah, who has fallen out of favour due to the Sohrabudin Sheikh encounter case (external link), is politically sharper than these three but due to the legal troubles he is out of the race.
There is not an iota of doubt that, if and when Modi shifts to New Delhi, he will decide on his successor. If he decides that a Patel or upper caste leader will take over from him, then it is most likely that he will select one of these three leaders.
All are politically weak. Anandiben and Saurabh had to run away from their constituencies because they were sure to lose. Rupala has not fought elections since he lost in 2002.
But nobody can guess Modi's mind. However, if he doesn't want Gujarat to be led by the Patels or any of the upper castes, then the game is wide open.
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Image: Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi
Photographs: Courtesy Narendra Modi's website
Anandiben Patel: Modi's No 2
Anandiben Patel has been Modi's most trusted aide for over three decades and holds the all-powerful revenue and road and building portfolios. She has been a cabinet minister in the state since 1998. Patel, 71, is said to be the preferred choice of Modi as and when he decides to shift base to Delhi.
Patel is currently contesting the assembly polls from Ghatlodia segment in Ahmedabad. She has shifted from Patan, where her chances of returning to the state legislature were not very bright as the seat had undergone social and demographic changes after the delimitation exercise.
Patel is seen as the virtual number two in the state cabinet, whose writ runs much beyond the departments she holds. In the previous government, from January 2003 to December 2007, she held the education and women and child development departments.
Besides ministerial responsibilities, she is also guardian minister of Ahmedabad so she also virtually controls the BJP-ruled Ahmedabad municipal corporation and the organisational affairs of the party in the city.
She has vast administrative experience but her drawbacks too are many. She has never been able to emerge as an independent personality. Her record in fighting for gender issues is nothing to write about. She is also short-tempered and not very popular among the BJP cadre in the state.
She also has health issues which can come in the way of her becoming the successor to the 61-year-old BJP strongman.
Also, Anandiben's children are involved in questionable business deals. Particularly, her posh bungalow in Ahmedabad has raised many eyebrows. During her stint in the education department there were charges of rampant corruption.
And last but not the least, she has a running rivalry with Amit Shah, whose alleged involvement in the sensational Sohrabuddin encounter case has created a big roadblock to his political career, which otherwise had seen a meteoric rise under his mentor.
Shah, who is a close aide of Modi, is miles ahead in understanding Gujarat politics compared to Anandiben. When Shah was arrested, Anandiben is said to have celebrated his downfall as she also saw him as a potential rival.
However, Modi has reportedly brought a truce between them in the midst of electoral battle.
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Image: Anandiben Patel
Photographs: Courtesy Anandiben Patel's website
Purushottam Rupala: The rural face of the BJP
BJP national vice-president Purushottam Rupala was former president of the state BJP unit. He is a Kadva Patel from Amreli and has always been a trusted aide of Modi. He is a member of Parliament and known for his loud and witty speeches that holds the audience's attention till his mentor Modi arrives on the stage.
He never speaks in Gujarati but only enthralls his audience in Kathiawadi lingo as stand-up comedians do in Saurashtra.
In fact, he was one of the main leaders who had played an important role in Modi's entry into Gujarat politics as Modi was in the national capital where he was serving the party as organising secretary.
Though he is no longer the state party president, Rupala played a crucial role in the candidate selection process for the assembly polls. He is regarded as an aggressive leader, and had earlier served as cabinet minister in charge of the prestigious Narmada department. But, he had lost the 2002 assembly polls when the BJP returned to power with a thumping majority.
Rupala also has the backing of the Sangh Parivar and has a network of loyal leaders and workers across the state. However, in BJP circles he is seen as an abrasive personality.
He lacks sophistication but makes up for it with his ethnic wisdom and organising skills. He is a more natural and ethnic personality compared to Anandiben and Saurabh Patel, his competitors for the top post.
Secondly, Rupala is seen as a leader of the farmers and has no exposure to corporate leaders, who often play a critical role in the political affairs of Gujarat.
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Image: Purushottam Rupala
Photographs: Courtesy Purushottam Rupala's website
Saurabh Patel: The suave, industry-friendly face
The latest entrant into the league of likely successors to Modi is Saurabh Patel, who is serving as junior minister for industries, energy, port, whose cabinet portfolios are handled by Modi himself.
Experience-wise he lags behind Rupala and Anandiben. But the media and vested interests in energy and industries sectors are pushing his name. Patel has been playing second fiddle to Modi since he was picked up as a minister in January 2003.
Patel is an MBA from the US and is considered a talented and meticulous minister. His is also sophisticated, with a good understanding of finance, industry and the energy sector.
He is also spokesperson for the Modi cabinet.
He was elected to the state assembly from Botad constituency in Bhavnagar district but this time Modi has allowed him to change to Akota, an urban seat in Vadodara, as the Koli-dominated Botad had become risky because the Congress has fielded its powerful Koli leader and Rajkot MP Kuvarji Bavalia there.
Saurabh is the son-in-law of Ramnik Ambani, elder brother of the late Dhirubhai Ambani, founder of Reliance Industries. As energy and industry minister, he has also developed proximity to certain high-profile industrial groups, which can wield considerable influence in political circles also.
As industry minister, Saurabh has played an important role in successfully organising Vibrant Gujarat investment summits, which have helped the Modi government get global publicity.
According to BJP insiders, Saurabh has grown close to Modi, as the chief minister increasingly relies on him on important matters. Secondly, he is a good executioner of Modi's ideas.
In the current assembly polls, he was roped in by the chief minister in the preparation of the party's poll manifesto which was released on December 3. He was the only minister from the state cabinet to share the dais with Modi, Arun Jaitley, state BJP president R C Faldu and Rupala when the manifesto was released.
However, he has no roots in the RSS and also has no godfather in the BJP other than Modi. Secondly, his proximity to certain industrial houses can work against him if the BJP wants to project a face of aam-aadmi to succeed Modi.
What is for sure is that Modi is unlikely to select a strong regional leader to succeed him.
Image: Saurabh Patel
Photographs: Wikimedia Commons