In November, Union Home Minister Amit Shah declared that Bhupendra Patel would continue as chief minister if BJP won Gujarat, as the two held a 3 km-long roadshow in Ghatlodia Assembly constituency of Ahmedabad. When he was made chief minister in September 2021 replacing Vijay Rupani, it came as a surprise to Patel himself, who was a first-time MLA with no experience of being in a cabinet. But known as a Modi man, low-profile, non-controversial and with a Patel identity, he h ad leverage. Rupani’s entire cabinet was asked to step down to make way for a new one under Patel who held about 10 portfolios, including home, planning, general administration, and information and broadcasting. While his government, comprising several first-time ministers, did face some controversies, it could flaunt Gujarat getting the Vedanta-Foxconn contract for a semiconductor facility and the Narmada waters reaching Kutch. Last year, amid a controversy over local BJP leaders demanding the removal of food carts selling non-vegetarian food, his statement that the government had no problem with what people ate got wide coverage in the media. Patel began as a businessman, first selling firecrackers, and later becoming a successful builder. His political career began in the municipal bodies of Ahmedabad. The change from a businessman to a politician did not, however, alter his attire of shirt and trousers, which he is still mostly seen wearing. In 2017, the first time he contested an Assembly election, he won by the highest margin, fighting from Ghatlodia, even as the ruling BJP faced the Patidar agitation for OBC status led by Hardik Patel, who is now in BJP. Bhupendra Patel, the fifth Patidar to become the state’s chief minister, has again won the seat. Addressing the media, as results showed that BJP was heading for a record victory in the state, Patel said the people of the state had voted for Modi’s leadership and Gujarat’s development.
CR Paatil | Party Boss
President of Gujarat BJP, the Lok Sabha MP from Navsari in Gujarat, Chandrakant Raghunath Paatil, 67, has been at the forefront of the party’s attack on the Aam Aadmi Party’s (AAP) Arvind Kejriwal, who projected himself as a challenger to Modi. Paatil’s antagonism for AAP goes back to February 2021 when the party bagged 27 seats in the civic body polls on his turf, Surat, Navsari’s twin city. In the run-up to the Assembly elections, Paatil, who has been in AAP’s firing line, asked BJP workers to ensure that Kejriwal’s party lost even its deposit. A Modi confidant, Paatil, despite being a non-Gujarati, was chosen to take over as the state party chief in 2020, replacing Jitu Vaghani, who was made the state’s education minister. Paatil continued in the post as he witnessed a regime change from Rupani to Patel. He was also handpicked to be one of the campaign managers in Varanasi, Modi’s Lok Sabha constituency. In October, Paatil was among three BJP leaders, the others being Amit Shah and Bhupendra Patel, who met Modi at his official residence in Delhi, apparently to discuss issues related to Gujarat. The three-time MP from Navsari won with a record number of votes in 2019. Born in a village in the Jalgaon district of Maharashtra, he made Gujarat his political base, joining BJP in 1989, five years after he had to resign from Gujarat Police. He has become the first MP whose office in Navsari has received an ISO certification 9001: 2008 for quality management arrangements, applicable to the supervision and administration of government services for the constituency.
Harsh Sanghavi | Young Talent
At 37, he was already almost on a par with the chief minister in terms of the number of portfolios he held—independent charge of excise and prohibition, border security, and prisons, and an additional charge of revenue, besides being MoS for home, disaster management, police housing, sports, youth, and cultural activities. Gujarat’s minister of state for home, a portfolio once held by Amit Shah, Harsh Ramesh Sanghavi is among the 71 BJP MLAs who contested again this time. He defeated Congress’ Balwant Shantilal Jain and AAP’s PVS Sarma, a retired income-tax officer, in Surat’s Majura, which falls in Navsari, to capture the constituency, which he first won in 2012 for a third term. The youngest in the Assembly at 27 when he fought his first election, he has won with huge margins in all three elections. Seen as the quintessential young blood in politics, Sanghavi has been one of Prime Minister Modi’s backroom boys, playing a key role in organising some of his roadshows, rallies, and diaspora events. Born in a Baniya family, like Shah, he began his political career in BJP in the party’s youth wing. In September, after the Gujarat Anti-Terrorist Squad (ATS), along with the Directorate of Revenue Intelligence (DRI) Jamnagar regional unit and the Surat crime branch, seized 39 kg of heroin worth around ₹200 crore at the Kolkata port, he said Gujarat Police would expand anti-drug drives to other states to save “thousands” of young lives. He and Patel came in for praise from Shah at a meeting of the western states on ‘Drug Trafficking and National Security’ in Gandhinagar last month. The son of a diamond merchant, he and his spouse’s assets rose from ₹2.12 crore in 2017 to ₹17.42 crore in 2022.
Mansukh Mandaviya | Central Support
His official website opens with Mahatma Gandhi’s quote: “The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.” A decade ago, while being felicitated for getting elected to Rajya Sabha at the age of 40 in Surat, Mansukh Mandaviya had come in for praise from Modi, then the Gujarat chief minister, who described him as a “dedicated worker” with a “bright future”. Now a member of Modi’s Cabinet, he was given charge of the crucial health and family welfare ministry in July last year, replacing Harsh Vardhan, soon after the harrowing April-May Covid-19 surge in the country. Recently, Melinda French Gates, the co-chair of the Bill and Melinda French Gates Foundation, congratulated him for India’s successful Covid-19 vaccination drive. He is also the MoS for chemicals and fertilisers. Mandaviya figured in the list of 40 BJP leaders to campaign in Gujarat where he was the youngest MLA when he fought his first Assembly election from Palitana constituency in 2002. He had begun as a member of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) when he was 20, and four years later, he joined BJP’s youth wing, the Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM). Mandaviya was given a key role in the tactfully planned
Shankar Chaudhary | Dairy Man
BJP leader from north Gujarat and chairman of Banas Dairy, Asia’s largest milk producer, Shankar Chaudhary got the ticket from Tharad despite having lost the last Assembly election from the Vav constituency in Banaskantha district. Last year, Modi laid the foundation stone of a new Banas dairy plant in Varanasi, his Lok Sabha constituency. An OBC leader, Chaudhary was part of the BJP delegation that submitted a representation to a commission appointed by the Gujarat government to inquire into backwardness in local bodies to decide on reservations for OBCs in the state, where 10 per cent seats are reserved for the OBC community in gram panchayat elections. At a time when the Jats of north Gujarat were protesting against the arrest of former minister Vipul Chaudhary over irregularities during his tenure as chairman of the Dudhsagar Dairy, BJP banked on other Jat leaders like Shankar Chaudhary. Sworn in as a minister for the first time in Anandiben Patel’s government in the state in 2014, he continued as minister of state in Rupani’s regime after Patel quit as chief minister in August 2016. In 1998, when he was 28, he won the Radhanpur Assembly seat. Tharad, also in Banaskantha district, witnessed the highest voting in the second phase of the elections at 82 per cent.