Within days of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's elevation as chief of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)'s 2014 election committee, talks have already begun on who could be his possible successor. Though the party leadership is tightlipped over names of individuals, three people could emerge as strong contenders - Revenue Minister Anandi Patel, Finance Minister Nitin Patel and Energy Minister Saurabh Patel. The BJP is quick to rubbish any claims that Modi's role at the Centre will impact the functioning of the party or government in the state. "The functioning of the government and party has been designed in such a way that it would function efficiently in the absence of Modi," said state president R C Faldu. But there is already a lot of speculation. Some political analysts believe there is no strong second line of leadership in Gujarat, as Modi has hurt the cadre-based system in the BJP with his autocratic way of functioning. "There is no second rank of leadership in Gujarat because of Modi. He has destroyed the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in Gujarat," claimed political observer Hemant Shah. He also believes Modi will not leave his chief minister's seat in Gujarat unless he gets a bigger post like that of the prime minister or the BJP's national president. Shah also believes there is a distinct possibility of Modi naming somebody other than the three most talked about candidates. "He wants someone whom he can dictate to from Delhi," he added. "There is no one in sight who can lead Gujarat, if Modi goes to Delhi, which too is a hypothesis," said political analyst Ghanshyam Shah. "He (Modi) has neither allowed any second line to come up, nor has he groomed one. His way of functioning has been to sidetrack those from whom he feels a possible threat," Shah said. Shah also believed Modi would find it difficult to work at the central level as at that level there were many compromises to be made. "Modi is not used to working with others. To build relations with other parties requires compromises. This, I think, will be a challenge for Modi," he said.
| THE CONTENDERS Anandi Patel Among the three 'contenders', Anandi Patel (71) is the most prominent, as she is a confidante of Modi and enjoys trust. Though she is not seen as a mass leader, her popularity within the party and clout among bureaucrats is much talked about. |
A former school principal, she has a strong presence in Ahmedabad and has the backing of the powerful Patel community. Patel at present holds the portfolios of revenue, drought relief, land reforms, rehabilitation & reconstruction, roads & buildings, capital project, urban development and urban housing. She was minister for women and child development and education during her earlier tenure with Modi and his predecessor, Keshubhai Patel. She also has an experience of over two decades in politics. She has been a member of the state legislative assembly since 1998. Being an educator by profession, she has a good understanding of administrations and government procedures, and also has clout among the bureaucrats. Nitin Patel Nitin Patel brings with him vast experience in politics and administration, as well as community leadership. He was health and family welfare minister in the first BJP government in Gujarat in 1995 and during the Keshubhai Patel regime. He has been member of the state assembly since 1990, except for one term between 2002 and 2007, when he lost the elections. Being an agriculturist, he has been involved in cotton ginning and edible oil extractions from oil seeds. He was also director of the Kadi Agricultural Produce Market Committee and member of Mehsana District Cooperative Bank Ltd. Nitin Patel currently holds the portfolios of finance, health, medical education, family welfare and transport departments. He has a good hold on one of the most powerful lobbies in the state, the oil extractors' lobby. Saurabh Patel Energy minister Saurabh Patel, who has a Master of Business Administration from the US, has been a Modi loyalist from the beginning. He has been in the state assembly since 1998 and has been a minister after Modi took over the reins from Keshubhai Patel in 2001. The 55-year-old was elevated from minister of state to cabinet rank after the 2012 assembly elections. The son-in-law of Ramnikbhai Ambani, the elder brother of late Dhirubhai Ambani, Saurabh Patel is an experienced minister and is well-versed in governance issues. He has been minister for energy and petrochemicals besides industries and minerals, mines and civil aviation for over a decade. His stature in the government has also risen alongside the meteoric rise of Modi. Saurabh Patel at present holds the portfolios of energy and petrochemicals, mines and minerals, cottage industries, salt industries, printing, stationary, planning, tourism, civil Aviation, labour and employment.