Gujarat Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel, who was unhappy over not getting portfolios of his choice in the new cabinet, took charge yesterday after he was given the finance portfolio, following BJP president Amit Shah’s intervention. “BJP president Amit Shah called up in the morning and assured me that I will be given a portfolio which befits my stature as the number two in the cabinet and as the deputy chief minister,” Patel told reporters at his residence. “Shah asked me to take charge of my departments, so I will take charge today. Chief Minister Vijay Rupani will meet Governor O P Kohli in the afternoon and give him a letter, informing him of the allocation of a new department to me,” he added. Soon after taking charge, Patel left for his Assembly constituency, Mehsana, to meet his supporters. Shortly after his arrival at Mehsana in the afternoon, Rupani announced in Gandhinagar that the finance portfolio had been given to Patel and that the issue was over now.
“We have made certain changes in the portfolios. We have given finance to Nitinbhai. With this, the issue is over now. Such small things happen in a big family like the BJP. I have already sent a letter to the Governor, informing him of this change in the portfolios,” the chief minister told reporters. Patel maintained that the issue was not about some departments, but about “self-respect”. “I had conveyed to the party high-command to either give me respectable departments or relieve me from the cabinet,” he said. The veteran leader added that he had been serving the BJP as a “loyal and disciplined” soldier for the last 40 years. In the previous government headed by Rupani, Patel used to handle key portfolios of finance and urban development among other departments.
However, this time, finance was given to Saurabh Patel, while Rupani kept urban development with himself, leaving only road and building, health and family welfare, medical education, Narmada, Kalpsar and capital projects with Patel. Unhappy over the allotment, Patel had refrained from taking charge of the departments, prompting the top BJP leadership to swing into action to placate the senior Patidar leader. While announcing the portfolios on December 28, Rupani had said, “It is not true that the minister, who has the finance portfolio, is the number two in the cabinet. Nitin Patel is our senior leader and will remain the number two.”
Sending feelers to the deputy chief minister, Patidar quota agitation spearhead Hardik Patel had yesterday said he would extend support to him and talk to the Congress leadership to ensure that Patel got the respect he deserved from the party, if he left the BJP, along with 10 other MLAs, and joined hands with the Congress to form a new government. “If he (Patel) decides to quit the BJP and 10 other MLAs are ready to quit with him, we will talk to the Congress to take in Nitinbhai and give him a post he deserves,” Hardik had said. Senior Congress MLA Virji Thummar had also said that Patel would be made the chief minister with the Congress’ support if he quit the saffron party. The Congress, however, had clarified that Thummar was speaking in his personal capacity and described the row over portfolio distribution as an “internal matter” of the BJP. The BJP and the Congress have 99 and 77 seats respectively in the 182-member Gujarat Assembly.