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Home / Politics / Policy /  Anandiben Patel sends in resignation as Gujarat agitations snowball

New Delhi: Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel offered to resign on Monday, ahead of election to the state assembly expected next year.

Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah confirmed her offer, adding he would place her request before the party’s parliamentary board, which would take the final decision.

In a Facebook post, Patel said though she would reach the age of 75 only in November, she decided to step down early keeping in mind next year’s assembly polls and the Vibrant Gujarat summit. The resignation would give her successor enough time to settle down, she said. She thanked PM Narendra Modi for choosing her as Gujarat chief minister, adding that she had tried her best to offer “resulted-oriented governance".

The BJP has a policy to the effect that leaders above 75 years of age should not hold any administrative post.

Patel’s offer is significant because it comes in the wake of the state government drawing flak over the unrest following the Patidar agitation and, more recently, the Dalit protests. The Patidar agitation, which began last August, has threatened to dent the BJP’s strongest support base, the Patel community, which constitutes nearly 14% of the state’s population.

The term of the current assembly ends in January 2018.

So far, the only other BJP leader who has resigned from a post because of the age limit has been Najma Heptulla, who stepped down as Union minister for minority affairs on 12 July.

Patel said she had made a request to the BJP central leadership two months ago to relieve her of her duties. Mint had reported on 17 May that the party is looking to replace the chief minister ahead of the assembly election.

The move was based on an internal party report submitted by Om Prakash Mathur, a BJP member of Rajya Sabha and a close aide of Modi. The report said that the popularity of Patel, who has been a minister in successive BJP governments in the state since 1998, has declined in the wake of the Patel agitation for reservation.

Top contenders for the chief minister’s post include Amit Shah, Gujarat BJP chief Vijay Rupani and health minister Nitin Patel.

The recent agitation by the Dalit community seems to have made things worse for the BJP in Gujarat.

“The fact that she chose to announce her exit by way of a FB (Facebook) post is something unprecedented. It has never been done before by any BJP leader. It shows that all is not well within the party leadership," said a senior BJP leader on condition of anonymity.

BJP leaders in Gujarat have been divided into two camps, one supporting Patel and the other supporting Shah.

The rift was seen at a cricket tournament held in Ahmedabad in May where Shah was invited to inaugurate the event. Patel decided not to attend the event at the last moment. Organized by the Ahmedabad city BJP unit, the supporters of Shah shouted slogans proclaiming his as the next leader of Gujarat.

In an attempt to defuse the Patidar agitation, the Gujarat government in April announced a new 10% quota in jobs and college admissions for the economically backward among the upper castes. The announcement was, however, made by the party president Rupani, a close confidant of Shah, and not by the chief minister.

“The CM chose to stay away as she was not convinced about the move," a person close to Patel said, requesting anonymity.

The agitating Patel community had called the move a “lollipop" offered by the government to misguide the community. A person close to Shah said the chief minister did not have a good communication strategy and had failed to send the right message to the masses on the Dalit issue.

In case of the Patidar agitation, he claimed that it was more of an “error of judgement" as the chief minister and her supporters thought that it would eventually die down and would not snowball into such a widespread protest.

With the party going through turbulent times in Gujarat, Patel’s successor will face a tough challenge with both protests yet to wane.

Gyan Varma, Anuja and PTI contributed to this story.

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