Friday, March 26, 2021

Keshubhai Patel

 He was a Common man with a wider vision. 

Shri Keshubhai Patel was a noble person and a grassroot level worker. When I was Collector of Kutch, we travelled together at border check posts. He was explaining how he used to drive the Jeep and carrying the two BJP leaders late Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Shri LK Advani for the visit of Saurastra and Kutch. In teenage, he used to work in a coal shop in Rajkot weighing the coal for the consumers. His great common sense (કોઠા સૂઝ) and dedication to his party made him a great leader. 

After the consecutive drought years and internal fightings amongst the leaders, when the INC Govt was losing its popularity, he joined hands with Janata Party of Chimanbhai in 1990 and defeated INC. It was a turning point of Gujarat politics. The union of JP-BJP didn’t last longer because BJP withdrew support to VP Singh Govt due to his opposition to Ram Rath Yatra. Chimanbhai joined Congress and saved his government but lost the vote base of Janata Party to BJP. It was a great gain to Bjp without much efforts. But when Chimanbhai died of heart attack under the pressure of saving Madhavsinh Solanki from the defeat in Rajshabha election, his weak successor paved the way of for BJP by losing assembly elections of 1995 and Keshubhai sworn in as the first CM from BJP in Gujarat in 1995. His first tenure ended facing two calamities, one natural (cyclone over Saurastra coast) and another political (revolt by Shankarsinh Vaghela). He was away abroad and his rivals played the plot. Shri Suresh Mehta succeed him but he was replaced by Shri Shankarsinh Vaghela with the support of Congress. Fortunately for BJP, the union of RJP and INC didn’t last longer in personality clash. Shri Shankarsinh’s non adjustment with late Sitaram Kesari (INC National President) and late Amarsinh Chaidhari (INC State President) ended the term of his Govt. In a triangle fight (RJP, INC, BJP) of 1998 elections, BJP with roughly 36% votes won the majority and Keshubhai became the CM of Gujarat again for the second term. But natural and political calamities were waiting for him. Kandla cyclone of June 1998 and Kutch Earthquake of January 2001 took his test. When he was busy in managing Kutch earthquake with the dissatisfaction of Suresh Mehta, and his team of officers successfully conducted rescue and relief operations and rehabilitation works were also started, his opponents were busy in framing a case of his weak leadership. BJP lost Sabarmati and Sabarkantha assembly seats in by-elections and therefore doubts were raised that whether the party might win assembly elections 2022 or not under his leadership. 21 or 27 leaders of BJP under the leadership of late Kashiram Rana demanded his replacement. To calm down the unrest, a meeting was called in Delhi, where till lunch time, the them PM (ABV) was under the impression that with little advice to him to keep the unrest group in trust, the things would have been settled. But it was not so simple. The men whom Keshubhai carried for his defence let him down. During the lunch break, he was told by his confident man that the environment is not in his favour and the high command might place Kashiram Rana as his successor, who was demanding his exit with only 21 signatures. Keshubhai came under the trap and in the beginning of the post lunch meeting, declared innocently that he wouldn’t accept Kashiram Rana as his successor. By saying so, he had accepted his departure. Before anybody could understand what happened or what they did, the destiny opened the door of light for a new man, who was going to write a new history for himself and for the country. The man who had majority support of the assembly and of his party resigned to respect the party discipline. He respected the words of his mentors LKA and ABV. He neither revolted nor accepted the call of unrest group to encase the opportunity of his come back. Meanwhile, his wife died of accidental fire on an electrical chair while doing morning exercise. By her departure, he lost the mental strength to fight for come back. He did try to express his unrest in 2012 assembly elections through GPP (Gujarat Parivartan Party), but couldn’t bring any change. However, his will to live longer continued. He had enjoyed Ganthia everyday, but extended his life line by doing daily pranayam taught by Baba Ramdev. 

During both of his tenures, he pioneered many innovative schemes of development of the State. Gokul Gram was very popular in villages. But the most important and noteworthy initiative was his water management policies. He knew the water scarcity of Saurastra was the major bottleneck of its growth. Hundreds of check dams were built in Saurastra. Narmada Water grid for Saurastra was planned. Mahi-Pariej and other such line were executed in a shortest possible time. Road network was strengthened. 25% concession in electricity bills and cheap tickets of ST bus were his popular gifts to the common man. A new era of development started of execution of projects in prescribed time line. Gujarat villages were electrified but due to common grid for the farms and the houses, people were not getting 24x7 electricity supply at home. The study report of separation of power grids initiated by the previous government came on his table for financial support. It was then executed by his successor as Jyotigram Yojana, that had charged the development hunger of rural Gujarat. IT was in its initial stage and administration was wondering around the dot-com. Before he could do much on this front he had resigned on Gandhi Jayanti, 2nd October 2001. 

Limited education but with high intellect and wide experience, he became a visionary leader who had paved the way of speedy development of the State. He was not a cunning politician, therefore, he became CM twice but couldn’t complete his term of the office. However, his contribution as Agriculture Minister in Babubhai Patel’s Goverment (1978-1980), DyCM in Chimanbhai’s Goverment and two spells as CM of Gujarat placed him on the height of respects with his outstanding contribution in the development of the state. He was a simple, noble and good hearted man. May God rest the soul in peace. 


29 October 2020


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