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Rupani, Nitin Patel’s Political Careers Nearly Over After Tickets Denied

It is virtually the end of the political road for former Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani and his then deputy Nitin Patel, after both refused to run in the state’s parliamentary elections next month.

The reason the two leaders, who had been active in Gujarat politics for more than three decades, gave for not participating in the elections was that they wanted to make way for the next generation.

But political observers believe they have actually been denied tickets as the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wants to present more fresh faces this time around to negate the anti-incumbency factor.

“I have decided not to fight the election this time. The BJP gave me the chance to be Gujarat’s prime minister for five years. Now they’ve put me in charge of Punjab… I didn’t even demand a ticket,” Rupani told reporters on Wednesday, a day before the BJP released its first list of candidates.

Rupani (66), currently Rajkot West’s MLA, was Prime Minister from August 2016 to September 2021.

In September 2021, his entire cabinet was asked by the party to resign and be replaced by a new government led by Bhupendra Patel.

Rupani belongs to a Jain family who returned to India from Myanmar (then Burma) and settled in Rajkot shortly after his birth. As a youth, Rupani was associated with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and its affiliated student organization Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad.

He was elected as a shareholder of the Rajkot Municipal Corporation in 1987 and served as mayor from 1996 to 1997. Later, he was appointed as the general secretary of the Gujarat unit of the BJP. In 2006, he was elected a member of the Rajya Sabha.

Over the next decade, he grew rapidly in state politics, becoming an MLA, minister, and prime minister within two years.

In August 2014, the BJP chose Rupani to fight a bee poll into the seat of Rajkot West after Vajubhai Vala resigned after being appointed governor of Karnataka.

Rupani became Minister of Transport in the Anandiben Patel-led government in November 2014. For a brief stint in 2016, he became chairman of the BJP’s Gujarat unit.

After Anandiben Patel’s sudden resignation as prime minister in August 2016, the central BJP leadership chose Rupani as her replacement. It came as a surprise as Nitin Patel was widely expected to land the coveted job.

Rupani became prime minister for the second time after the BJP retained power in the 2017 elections, until the party’s sudden change of guard was implemented four years later.

Many believed that the BJP wanted to face the Assembly’s upcoming polls with a new team, as opposition parties had targeted the Rupani government for its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nitin Patel, who is the same age as Rupani, came very close to becoming prime minister twice, but the highest position eluded him.

The seasoned politician was among the frontrunners for the position in 2016 when Anandiben Patel stepped down, and again in 2021 after Rupani stepped down.

“I live in people’s hearts, no one can kick me out,” said Patel, a six-time MLA, after the BJP elected Bhupendra Patel over him.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi recently praised Nitin Patel for the role he played in the construction of Narmada’s canal network. “Patel can speak on the subject for an hour,” Modi said at a meeting.

Belonging to a wealthy family from Mehsana, Patel began his political journey as a councilor of the district’s Kadi municipality in 1977. In 1990, as Kadi’s MLA, he won a seat on BJP ticket.

He represented Kadi in the Assembly four times between 1990 and 2007. In the next two elections, he won from the Mehsana constituency.

Patel became Minister of Health when the BJP first formed a government of its own in Gujarat under Keshubhai Patel in 1995.

From 1995 he was part of every BJP government until 2021.

He first became deputy prime minister in the Rupani cabinet in 2016, and then again after the 2017 elections.

On November 9, Patel said in a handwritten letter to Gujarat BJP chief CR Paatil that he would not be eligible for a ticket from the Mehsana seat.

“I have decided not to fight against elections. I’ve been elected to MLA six times,” the former deputy CM told reporters.

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