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BJP's change of CMs, cabinet rejig pay off in Guj; no similar tactics in HP

Last updated on: December 08, 2022 23:01 IST

The Bharatiya Janata Party's victory in Gujarat and earlier in Uttarakhand appears to have vindicated its strategy of changing chief ministers and resetting the cabinet ahead of assembly polls to thwart anti-incumbency, an exercise not done in Himachal Pradesh where the party suffered defeat.

IMAGE: BJP candidate from Viramgam seat Hardik Patel celebrates his win outside a vote counting centre for the Gujarat assembly elections, in Ahmedabad, December 8, 2022. Photograph: PTI Photo

With the strategy working in its favour, the BJP could be encouraged to undertake similar steps in states, including Karnataka, where elections are due next year, to counter factors that might work against it.


In September last year, the BJP appointed Bhupendra Patel, a first-time MLA as Gujarat chief minister to replace Vijay Rupani barely over a year before the state elections.

The party also changed the entire cabinet to reset the overall government.

A senior national-level leader of the BJP said the results clearly indicated that the change of chief minister in both Uttarakhand and Gujarat played a role in neutralising anti-incumbency.

In Gujarat, the caste of the chief minister (Patidar) also came in handy.

While the opposition targeted the BJP for removing its chief ministers, political watchers believe the changes highlighted the leadership's readiness to address feedback from the ground.

Similarly, in Uttarakhand, the BJP had changed chief ministers twice before the assembly polls, held earlier this year. However, the party won in the hill state despite its new chief ministerial face, Pushkar Singh Dhami, suffering defeat.

The senior leader also questioned why the same exercise was not done in Himachal Pradesh, where the party stuck with incumbent Jairam Thakur despite losing last year's bypolls.

Another senior BJP leader said three factors -- delivery on the ground, keeping the organisation in good humour and the leader's popularity -- were behind these changes of chief ministers in the last two-three years.

The recent spate of changes undertaken at the Centre or in states ruled by it has marked a return to more conventional politics with the standard political faultlines of caste identity pushing to the background the urge to experiment.

The BJP has even preferred those leaders who started their careers from other political outfits.

In 2023, assembly elections are due in BJP-ruled Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh and Tripura, where the party recently changed its chief minister.

Jatin Takkar in New Delhi
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