Anandiben in the shadow of Modi


After the crest, a stoic calm. That is Gujarat  after Narendra Modi. Replacing a banyan tree of a chief minister-the longest serving  in the history of the state-is the most difficult of tasks. Though Anandiben Patel who moved in to fill the void  is a very predictable choice since  she and  party general secretary, Amit Shah enjoyed  Modi’s confidence, her rise to become the first woman chief minister of Gujarat provides a keen insight  into the present Indian prime minister’s political planning.

A man known to leave little leadership space for either aide or opponent, Modi ensured  that both his  aides-Anandiben and Amit-ever at loggerheads ,and he made sure that they remained that way, operated in distinct spheres designed to fulfill his goals. If Shah was the head of his dirty tricks department as minister of state for home before the fake encounters felled him, Anandiben was a trusted sheet anchor shoring up ‘manna’ raining ministeries like Revenue and PWD. As Modi got busy pursuing the  prime ministerial campaign, it was a core team of ministers who took charge of the state administration. The team comprised  of the official number two in the state government Nitin Patel, Saurabh Patel, Bhupendrasinh Chudasama and Anandiben Patel. But there was never an iota of doubt that it was Anandiben who called the shots though the final decision was always Modi’s. He apportioned  territory in a manner that Anandiben had a homerun to consolidate and Amit an alien land to annex. Under his watchful eyes, while she tightened her grip over the levers of power at home, Amit, moved to deliver Uttar Pradesh. And he did it with lethal effect. In one fell swipe, he ripped apart the jat-muslim unity forged by Chaudhary Charan Singh in western UP and cleaved Mayawati and Mulayam Singh of their caste configurations to present the politically vital north Indian state  to Modi on a platter. Amit’s success has ensured an enhanced national role for him in UP and Bihar and by the same reckoning ,a  free run for Anandiben in Gujarat. That’s quintessential Modi.

Gujarat has Modi written all over it. And it was this that he encashed to enthrall India. Thus it will be an uphill task for the new chief minister to come out of his all encompassing shadow. Over a month into helmsmanship, there is no indication that she wants to either. For the moment she is happy following in his footsteps. She has launched a mobile application for farmers, inaugurated the krishi mahotsav and the  
 annual enrolment drive for schools besides engaging on twitter-all hallmarks of the Modi reign.

However the combative tenor of an aggressively anti-Centre stance that Modi used as the champion chief minister of a UPA victimized Gujarat to build himself up as a credible alternative will sadly be denied to his chosen predecessor. This is because Modi today occupies the very chair that he targeted  when he was the chief minister. His ministers from Gujarat who railed  and thundered in press releases and media conferences now whimper and entreat. The state opposed GST, now pleads for a just share. It was long time associate and now political rival Shankersinh Vaghela, leader of the Congress opposition in the Gujarat Vidhan Sabha who  confronted Modi with his own list of desires and demands made on the UPA.”Time to undo all the injustices that you said were done by the previous government. The  gates on the  Sardar Sarovar Narmada dam should be installed in a jiffy and the canal network for the parched areas should follow soon. 

Gujarat should get coal from the western coalfields instead of the eastern ones .Nothing  should stop  the Rammandir construction, the pink revolution on export of cow flesh should  be brought to a halt with death for the  offenders. Kashmiri pundits should be  back in Kashmir and Pakistan and China  ejected  from Indian territory  and  don  Dawood made to  pay for terrorist sins”.

Denied the luxury of verbose half-truths in the  prime ministerial hot seat, Modi is now turning sagaciously sedate. The man who pre-poll charged the Nehru-Gandhi dynasty with denying Sardar Patel a place in history, post-poll says” many have told me that Sardar Patel would have been the first prime minister but Gandhiji perhaps felt that he would be open to the partisan charge of favouring  another gujarati”. The implication is obvious. Half-truths are coming home to roost.

The Narmada Control Authority(NCA) which was holding up permission to install the sluice gates on the Sardar Sarovar Narmada dam has done a volte face and cleared it following change of government. This implies that the denial was political. But the rehabilitation is far from complete, as sources in MP vehemently aver so is the approval  also political? Lost in the din of  celebrations is the fact that it will take over three years to install the gates and even at the full height of 138 metres, Gujarat will not be in a position to benefit from the 9 MAF(million acre feet) of water that should be irrigating  18 lakh hectares in the state. In his 13 years in power Modi failed to build the canal network needed for the purpose  and so only 1.8 lakh hectares of land is being irrigated by the Narmada waters in the state.

Meanwhile Modi today bullishly faces the same red rag of demands that he consistently flagged before the Manmohan Singh government, even if it is his onetime colleague, Anandiben doing so .The list is long. Central assistance for starting phase-1 of the Ahmedabad Metro Rail project, developing Sabarmati station as second railway terminal, extending the Ahmedabad-Vadodara Expressway up to Mumbai, including Gujarat’s1,600-km long Coastal Highway as National Highway, setting up the regional centre of National Security Guard (NSG), Coastal Security Guards Training Centre, constructing a jetty for the coastal security and  hastening the slow pace of work on border fencing with Pakistan. The shoe is on the other foot now and the hot seat under  scrutiny.

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