Gandhinagar: Though the Bharatiya Janata Party was unable to cross double digits in the just-concluded Gujarat assembly elections, winning just 99 seats against party president Amit Shah’s pre-poll claim that it would win 150, the ruling party decided to maintain the status quo by giving Vijay Rupani and Nitin Patel second terms as the chief minister and deputy chief minister, respectively.

BJP leaders had trumpeted that the two would lead the party’s election campaign while mocking the Congress party for its inability to project any of its state leaders as its chief ministerial candidate, but Rupani and Patel maintained low profiles throughout and restricted themselves to their own constituencies—Rajkot West and Mehsana, respectively. Rupani retained the seat he won in a 2014 be-election with a comfortable margin of 53,755 votes, but Patel scraped through, winning by just 7,137 votes.

Rupani, a Jain, is considered to be close to Shah, who made him chief minister after Anandiben Patel was unceremoniously removed in August 2016 reportedly because of her failure to control the pro-quota agitation by the affluent Patidar community. While Nitin Patel is a member of the community, he was overlooked for the post.

The deputy chief minister was tasked with holding peace talks with leaders of the Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti (PAAS) that is spearheading the stir, but instead of pacifying the agitators, he earned their wrath after a series of police actions in which as many as 10 Patel youth were killed in firing.

With 24-year-old PAAS convenor Hardik Patel threatening to relaunch his agitation with renewed vigour from 1 January, the BJP government is faced with the challenge of dealing with the discontent among the Patidar youth.

Hardik Patel and other PAAS leaders actively campaigned against the BJP in the recent elections and, with the ruling party winning a majority of the seats in Ahmedabad, Surat and Rajkot districts, have accused it of tampering with the electronic voting machines (EVMs) used in the polls.

Nachiketa Desai is a senior journalist based in Ahmedabad and tweets at @nachiketadesai. The views expressed are his own.

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