Anandiben Patel at helm as Modi gets emotional farewell

May 22, 2014 - 1:25:08 am
Anandiben Patel (right) greets the audience as Prime Minister-elect, Narendra Modi looks on at a function in Gandhinagar yesterday.

Gandhinagar: Senior Gujarat Minister Anandiben Patel was yesterday unanimously elected the leader of the BJP Legislature Party here, making her the chief minister designate to succeed Narendra Modi.

Addressing BJP legislators, a teary eyed Patel promised to continue the “glorious traditions of her predecessor” Modi.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister-designate Narendra Modi yesterdya stepped down as the Gujarat chief minister.

Camaraderie among ruling BJP and opposition Congress legislators and leaders in Gujarat marked an emotional farewell to Modi. In a brief farewell speech at a special session of the state legislature, Modi thanked the legislators and people of Gujarat for their love, cooperation and support in his stint as chief minister for around 13 years.

“Henceforth, I shall not be able to enter this legislature again — barring some special functions,” Modi said in chaste Gujarati as the entire legislature and some 400-plus invited guests thumped desks and loudly cheered him. “Over my 13 years, in case I have committed any mistakes, or if there were any shortcomings, please forgive me,” Modi said in a voice choked with emotion.

“I have the greatest regards for all the people here and I salute them...especially the house chairman and the opposition,” he added as his eyes turned moist.

Recalling some past anecdotes with the Congress Leader of Opposition and his old bete-noire Shankarsinh Vaghela, Modi expressed his special gratitude to Vaghela. In turn, Vaghela got up from his seat and walked up to Modi and felicitated him with a shawl and warmly hugged and congratulated him.

In a lighter vein, Modi said that now Gujarati would be spoken in the Prime Minister’s Office and it would have a special place for the people of state. “Even dhokla would be served in the PMO,” Modi said amidst laughter, referring to the Gujaratis’ favourite lip-smacking snack.

The assembly yesterday held a special session to bid farewell to Modi, who is set to be sworn in as India’s next prime minister next Monday. Later, Modi submitted his resignation to Governor Kamla Beniwal at Raj Bhavan nearby. IANS

Journey of a brave school teacher to Gujarat’s first woman CM 

Ahmedabad: Some 25 years ago, without a second thought, a woman school teacher plunged into the Narmada river and rescued two young girl students who were drowning. The teacher was 47-years old then. Today, at age 73, Anandiben Patel is all set to become Gujarat’s next and first woman chief minister, succeeding Narendra Modi.

Both Patel and Modi, 11 years younger, studied at the N M High School in Visnagar village in Mehsana district. Patel’s act of bravery in 1987 won her many national and state honours. Now the focus is again on the soft-spoken Patel as she prepares to govern Gujarat, a state now at the heart of Indian politics. 

Her elevation now is a far cry from the days when she refused all promotions at school as administrative responsibilities in a senior post would have deprived her of her passion — teaching.

After her act of bravery, Patel was coaxed by BJP activists to join politics. It was finally her husband and RSS functionary Mafatbhai Patel — they separated later — who convinced her into taking the political plunge. She did that, reluctantly. 

A few months later, the young Modi became general secretary of the BJP in Gujarat and made her the BJP women’s wing president.

Partly due to Modi’s backing and partly because Gujarat had no other woman leader from the powerful and affluent Patel community, Patel’s stars were on the ascendant. She got a Rajya Sabha nomination in 1994. She quit the Rajya Sabha in 1998 to fight her 

first election in Gujarat — and has remained the longest serving woman legislator in the state.

Over the years, Patel worked under two chief ministers —Keshubhai Patel and Modi.

She has handled the education portfolio and virtually turned around the department, and is presently handling key ministries like revenue, urban development, roads and buildings. 

“Behind her soft exterior is a tough and decisive woman who knows exactly how to deal with the bureaucracy and get work done without any excuses or compromises,” said former journalist Bashir Pathan, who has watched her political career for two decades.

Even in her high school, she was the only girl — and a good athlete — among 700 boys students. She went on to do masters in science and education. A mother of two, she is also known to do yoga regularly.

Over the years as minister and four-time legislator, Patel earned the confidence of Modi who made her chairperson of a group of ministers which ruled Gujarat after he was declared the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate in September 2013 and began remaining mostly away from the state. The farmer’s daughter showed dedication in running her departments efficiently, besides managing the show in Modi’s near-total absence from Gujarat. 

Patel has earned laurels for unprecedented enrolment in schools, comprehensive land surveys and digitisation of all land records. 

In the corridors of power in Gujarat, most fear the soft-spoken ‘Ben’ (Anandi-Ben) as an alter ego to the stern ‘Bhai’ (Narendra Bhai) Modi and consider her as probably the most capable to take over the reins of the state administration after Modi’s meteoric rise in national politics. Patel’s early life was dedicated to teaching at the M K Vidyalaya in Ahmedabad, involving herself in educating widows and poorer sections, and promoting women’s self-help groups.

Patel is said to be a simple person who is fond of vegetarian Gujarati food — and cotton saris.

IANS

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