Gujarat: Two years under Anandiben Patel

Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel
These have been two contrasting years for Anandiben Patel as Gujarat’s first woman chief minister.  

Having been a revenue and women and child welfare minister for some years, it was natural for Patel to focus on improving the state’s social development indices as soon as she took charge. Be it through schemes for encouraging women to come into animal husbandry, pension schemes for women self-help groups, or launching the Dudh Sanjivani Yojana, which provides milk to tribal children and those in primary schools, the first year had Patel’s distinct stamp on it.

Stepping away from an industry-centric Budget that was trademark of her predecessor Narendra Modi, the Patel government presented a social sector focused Budget. The share of social services in the total Budget outlay grew from 42 per cent during Modi’s chief ministership to over 48 per cent when Patel stepped in.

The first year also saw Patel attempting to connect with workers and villagers even as she remained careful to keep up the pace of work in all of Modi’s pet projects; solar power, the statue of unity, the Ahmedabad metro, Gujarat International Finance Tech City, even the Vibrant Gujarat Summit. At the valedictory session of the latest edition of the Vibrant Gujarat Summit in 2015, Patel announced a three-tier review panel to ensure speedy implementation of projects announced during the event.

Contrary to an authoritarian style of leadership identified with Modi, Patel has exhibited mixed styles. According to senior bureaucrats, she comes across as arrogant yet bold in her decisions. But her peers in the Cabinet as well as political observers find a lack of vision in her governance. “She believes a lot in follow-up and is detail-oriented. She likes to keep tabs and makes surprise visits to monitor implementation. She travels extensively within the state,” said a bureaucrat who works closely with her.

It was only early in her second year that chinks appeared. It began in August when the Patidar (Patel) community upped the ante on quotas. A rally led by the 22-year-old Hardik Patel in Ahmedabad turned violent.  Since then the community, represented by the two groups of Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) led by Hardik and the Sardar Patel Group (SPG) led by Lalji Patel, has been a thorn in the flesh of the government.

Despite an announcement of a Rs 1,000-crore package for economically backward category (EBC) youths, the Patidar community was not appeased and continued to protest.

Just when the state government thought it had things under control, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) faced disappointing results in local body polls in December. The local body polls saw the BJP winning all six municipal corporations and 40 out of 56 municipalities in urban areas, but lose to the Congress in 21 of the 31 district panchayats and around 110 of the 230 taluka panchayats.

The very next day after the poll results, the BJP government in Gujarat announced a 6,000 acre land bounty to co-operative societies and agricultural produce committees at concessional rates.  That has since been followed by a slew of schemes aimed at pleasing agrarian communities in rural areas, along with small, cottage and medium industries, apart from youths from all sections.

The second year of Anandiben Patel also saw the state government announcing schemes for agriculture such as crop insurance, organic farming and rise incentives for small industries.  The past couple of months have also seen a slew of policies for the IT industry, film, tourism, Alang ship breaking industry, and a policy for start-ups.

Her Gatisheel Gujarat programme, which focuses on women empowerment, cleanliness, industrial development, health, and education, has been a mixed bag, although officials claim 100 per cent results.

On the other hand, the Patidar agitation still continues to trouble her government despite providing a 10 per cent quota under the economically backward class category.

Finally, merely days before she finished her second year, rumours surfaced of Patel being replaced by a senior Cabinet minister or party leader as CM. Such rumours were also rife couple of months ago when allegations of Patel extending undue favour to business associates of her daughter Anar had cropped up. Apparently, a company run by business associates of Anar Patel owns 400 acres, 250 acres of which were allotted to it at Rs 15 per square metre of land near the Gir lion sanctuary, media reports claim.

Things are likely to remain shaky in her third year till the state goes to polls in December 2017. However, political observers do not rule out a surprise party decision in November when Patel turns 75.

Meanwhile, Patel seems to be resolute. “To fulfil the aspirations of 65 million people is a daunting task, and we are all going about this with sensitivity and strength of purpose that becomes stronger with every passing day,” she recently wrote in her blog.

REPORT CARD

Year 1

  • Result-oriented Gatisheel Gujarat programme to strengthen areas such as cleanliness, industrial development, health, education and women empowerment

     
  • Fast-tracking of Gandhinagar-Ahmedabad Metro-link Express

     
  • Personal review meetings and monitoring as routine practice

     
  • Various revenue reforms, including regularising bonafide purchase of land

     
  • Three-tier mechanism for speedy implementation of Vibrant Gujarat memoranda of understanding
Year 2

  • Criticised over poor handling of Patidar quota stir

     
  • Wins all six municipal corporations and 40 of 56 municipalities in urban areas in local body polls

     
  • Loses district panchayats and taluka panchayats seats to Congress in rural areas

     
  • Slew of policies announced for farmers and small and medium enterprises

     
  • Faces allegations of extending undue favour to business associates of daughter Anar Patel

     
  • Announcement of 10 per cent additional quota under economically backward class category does not appease Patidar community

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