Ahmedabad/Gandhinagar: The newly sworn-in Vijay Rupani government has hardly has it begun its tenure but already become embroiled in a controversy with Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel on Saturday remaining closeted in his home sulking over portfolios allocated to him.
For two days ever since he has been stripped of the Finance, Urban Development and Petrochemicals ministries, which he held in the previous government, in the new Rupani cabinet, Patel has not taken charge and remains indoors at his Ahmedabad residence.
While the Finance and Petrochemicals portfolios have this time been allotted to Saurabh Patel, who was dropped by Rupani when he took over the reins last year, the Urban Development portfolio has been retained by Rupani himself.
Ever since late Friday night till Saturday evening, scores of BJP and RSS leaders as well as party workers and Nitin Patel's supporters gathered there. Many of them were there to express their solidarity and others to persuade him to calm down.
Patel, who has been with the BJP since 1977, conveyed his displeasure to party high command though he had swallowed his hurt last year when he was not made the Chief Minister after Anandiben Patel had to quit over the Patel agitation. When Rupani was made Chief Minister and he his deputy, Patel was conveyed this decision just minutes before the announcement.
On Saturday, he told reporters: "I have expressed my feelings before the party leaders. It is not the question about power or portfolios, but about my self-respect, and I have full faith in the leadership."
He rejected all possibilities and speculations that he would quit the ministry or resign from the party. "I have devoted 40 years of my life to the BJP, there is no question of quitting," Patel said.
Demands have meanwhile emerged from the Patidar sections of the BJP that Patel is senior to Rupani and a veteran Patel leader who deserved to be the chief minister.
Besides Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti convenor Hardik Patel, senior Congress leader, Virji Thummar, who was elected to the assembly from Amreli, went to the extent of offering Congress support from outside if Nitin Patel was prepared to break away from the BJP with his supporters and form a ministry in the state.
Hardik Patel made a similar offer. "If Nitinbhai is ready to quit the BJP, I will talk to the Congress leaders to ensure that he gets a better post than the Deputy Chief Ministership given by the BJP," he said in Botad, near Bhavnagar, where he was participating in a "chintan Shibir" of the PAAS to prepare the future course of action. "Let him resign along with ten MLAs," the Patidar leader said.
The Deputy Chief Minister had a long afternoon meeting with pro-reservation leader Laljibhai Patel of the Sardar Patel Group, who had also been backing Hardik Patel's movement. After the meeting, Laljibhai Patel told reporters: "Not only the Patidar community, but others too wanted Nitinbhai as the CM. If he does not get justice, the Mehsana town would observe a bandh besides all other Patidar towns would express solidarity."
Several other Patel leaders, including former minister Narottam Patel, BJP state treasurer Surendra Patel, and others also called on Nitin Patel to try to pacify him. Narottam Patel told reporters that the party had done "injustice" to Nitin and had not been rewarded for his contributions for the party's victory in the Assembly elections.