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With a year remaining before the state assembly election, the BJP has replaced its chief minister in Gujarat. The party removed Vijay Rupani and appointed first-time MLA Bhupendra Patel to mitigate reproaches about administrative failures and to consolidate caste votes in the upcoming elections. As for Vijay Rupani, luck helped him when in the run-up to the last assembly election, Anandiben Patel was removed. But it is when the party recognised that there is nothing, other than bungling, to show in the balance sheet at the end of the term that Bhupendra, who is also a known Narendra Modi loyalist, is being brought to take the reins. With the crowd-puller Hardik Patel actively leading the Congress camp, the BJP has a natural concern that the gamble with a Jain like Rupani at the helm may go out of hand. The fact that the BJP had ended up with an unimpressive performance in the last local body and assembly elections is also a reason why it started fearing about the caste anger as a weakening factor for the party.
Since the elevation of Narendra Modi from the state to Delhi, the BJP has not been able to find a credible leader in the state. Even for Modi's era, there was nothing to claim as a meritorious governance other than the celebration of Gujarat model with the help of PR management companies, and the concomitant fattening of crony capitalists. Since an autocratic mechanism was in place where any murmur against the leaders' voice was muffled, all potential dissent was destined to fizzle out in Modi's era. Thus what Gujarat faces now is the tragic result of that dictatorial style which left no room for a second line of leadership in either the government or the party. The BJP cannot be blind to the bitter truth that with the current chief minister at the head, the BJP cannot face the people in an election. Although there is not much to fear at the face of a weak opposition, what troubled the BJP is its inability to clinch a shining victory in its strongest bastion. Hence the superficial treatment of the malady in Gujarat as it did in other states too. The state High Court had come down heavily on Rupani who failed miserably in saving the state from the alarming spread of Covid pandemic. The BJP has also assessed that the new foothold that Aam Aadmi Party is gaining in the result of failure in governance.
The ongoing BJP party/government model of reform consists in not analysing the shortcomings in government and party administration but in putting all responsibility on the chief minister and then replacing him. In Uttarakhand, a third chief minister in ruling within six months. Trivendra Singh Rawat was replaced by Tirath Sing Rawat and then came Pushkar Singh Dhami. In Karnataka, Basavaraj Bommai came in place of BS Yediyurappa and in Assam Sarbananda Sonowal was removed in favouor of Himanta Biswa Sarma; all of these made change of guard in states a regular phenomenon. The central cabinet also saw a reshuffle recently. Thus members of the cabinet were made scapegoats for the ineptness of the government with a heavy centralisation of power which tied the hands of state governments. When that reaches a stage of incurring popular wrath, the BJP leadership or the Modi-Shah duo washes its hands of it by sacrificing chief ministers and union ministers. In the matter of vaccination, oxygen availability and effective ration machinery necessary to overcome the Covid crisis, the state governments of BJP-led states are in a helpless state except with the mercy and support of the Centre. This is compounded by the internal tussle within the party as in the case of Karnataka and Uttarakhand. The sole remedy known to the BJP for all such maladies is change of heads. Both in the central government and party leadership, which stands virtually reduced to two individuals, the shake-up including that of Gujarat is turning into a competition for one-upmanship in the party leadership. On the whole, the BJP has betrayed all the frailties of autocracy at the Centre and in states. What happens now is a gimmick to hush up faults and overcome them with scapegoats. The story of Gujarat is nothing different.