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BJP's message from Gujarat overhaul: No one indispensable; Quest always to retain popular support


NEW DELHI: The BJP's bold move to completely overhaul its government in Gujarat, replacing chief minister downwards to every single minister, has brought to fore its strategy to beat any perceived anti-incumbency and sent out a clear message to all regional satraps that few are indispensable in the party's quest to keep a firm hold over popular support, political pundits believe.

While such a total replacement of all members of a government is a first, Prime Minister Narendra Modi since his days as the state chief minister has relied on replacing a sizeable number of sitting MLAs, seen to be not up to the mark, and bringing fresh faces during elections to neutralise any anger or fatigue among voters towards the party at the time of voting.

The strategy has since been replicated elsewhere as he led the BJP to power at the Centre in 2014 and then in 2019.

The party had not repeated any sitting councilor in the Delhi municipal polls in 2017 and denied tickets to all of its 10 Lok Sabha MPs in Chhattisgarh in the 2019 Lok Sabha polls soon after it was trounced by the Congress in the assembly elections.

Despite the talks of the Aam Aadmi Party emerging as a strong challenger to the BJP in the Delhi polls, the latter had successfully defended its stronghold over all three municipal corporations.

The gamble paid off in Chhattisgarh too as it won nine of the state's 11 Lok Sabha seats.

"You need a leader who has the authority and popular endorsement to pull off such a bold move which has its own risks. In Modi, we have such a leader. The party has given the people of Gujarat a brand new dispensation. If they had any anger with the previous government, it will now be certainly assuaged," a party leader said.

It's a democratic experiment, another leader said, noting that such a lock stock and barrel replacement of a government by a ruling party has never happened earlier.

That such a move has not drawn even a murmur of dissent shows the authority the BJP's central leadership enjoys, he added.

Gujarat will go to the polls next year-end, and the move is bound to change the political discourse in the run-up to the elections.

People's perception of the new government will now be a crucial factor, and a lot will depend on how the Bhupendra Patel-led dispensation fares compared to his predecessor Vijay Rupani.

Whether the party will bring in new leaders in more states where it is in power is anybody's guess but the message could not have been any clearer for those seen to politically lagging after it ushered in a change of guard in a number of states, political observers note.

The BJP had undertaken an extensive review of its organizational and governance performance across the country with a focus on the states where it is in power following the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic after its handling of the devastating spell of the disease drew a lot of flak in some states.

Opposition parties had also targeted Modi, who went for an expansion for his Council of Ministers, dropping some big names and bringing in a large number of fresh faces.

The party has also replaced its chief ministers in Karnataka and Uttarakhand.