Gujarat 2021: Rupani government exited amid Covid crisis

Gujarat 2021: Rupani government exited amid Covid crisis

The exit of Vijay Rupani-led government and the BJP leadership passing on the baton to a new-look team headed by first-term MLA Bhupendra Patel dominated political developments in Gujarat during the year.

Rupani’s exit was attributed by political observers to his apparent failure to handle the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
The change of guard in the coastal state in came a year ahead of the state Assembly elections. Patel (59), sworn in as the 17th chief minister of Gujarat in September, is a soft-spoken person who rose in state politics from the municipality level.

The exercise saw side-lining of senior state party leaders like Nitin Patel, Bhupendrasinh Chudasama, Kaushik Patel and Pradeepsinh Jadeja, who were ministerial colleagues of Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he was the state chief minister.

The health care infrastructure was under strain amid opposition’s claim that during the second wave of the pandemic the state government undercounted COVID-19 deaths as many people died at home due to a severe shortage of hospital beds and oxygen.

The government’s detractors claimed that people had to wait for hours at crematoriums to perform last rites of their near and dear ones.

Allegations of underreporting of coronavirus-related deaths also surfaced at the end of the year when the state government admitted in the Supreme Court that it gave Rs 50,000 compensation in almost twice the number of Covid deaths recorded officially.

Issues like redevelopment of Sabarmati Ashram established by Mahatma Gandhi, stringent law against forcible religious conversion by marriage and curbs on sale of non-vegetarian food items from street food carts
kept politicians and activists busy during the year.

Apart from COVID-19, cyclone Tauktae, one of the fiercest to hit Gujarat coast in recent history, ravaged the state in May killing 79 people and left a trail of destruction, uprooting everything that came in its path as it made landfall near Diu.

Rupani, who completed five years as chief minister in August, was on September 11 asked to resign. The next day, Patel, a surprise choice for many, was elected the BJP legislature party leader.

Patel became the fifth politician from the Patidar community to occupy the top post since the state’s formation in1960, indicating the clout wielded by the influential social group. The 2017 state Assembly elections were fought after the Patidar quota agitation.

Political observers said the poll results indicated Patidar community’s resentment against the BJP and the party does not want to take any chances in the next year’s elections.

The observers said a major for shunting out the entire council of ministers led by Rupani was poor handling of the coronavirus situation. As the pandemic raged, people felt helpless and their anger could have been reflected in the ensuing Assembly elections in a state where the BJP has been on a winning spree since 1995, they said.

In November, BJP-ruled civic bodies of Rajkot, Vadodara and Ahmedabad decided to take action against non-vegetarian street food carts. The chief minister intervened, saying the state government has no problem with people eating what they like.

Responding to a petition by the vendors, the Gujarat High Court slammed he civic administration for acting against street vendors selling non-vegetarian food on the streets of Ahmedabad. You don’t like non-veg food, it is your lookout. How can you decide what people should eat outside? How can you stop people from eating what they want?” the court said.

Another controversial issue was the Gujarat Freedom of Religion (Amendment) Act, 2021 which penalises religious conversion by allurement, fraud, force or by marriage. The Gujarat High Court stayed six amended provisions on interfaith marriages in the state’s anti-conversion law on August 19.

The ruling BJP won the civic body polls as well as Assembly bypolls during the year. It swept elections to six municipal corporations in Gujarat — Ahmedabad, Surat, Vadodara, Rajkot, Jamnagar and Bhavnagar in February. The party won a clear majority in all 31 district panchayats, 196 out of 231 taluka panchayats and 74 out of 81 municipalities in the
February elections.

The Aam Aadmi Party made inroads in Gujarat as it won 27 seats in the 120-member Surat Municipal Corporation. Buoyed by the performance, party leader Arvind Kejriwal announced that his party will contest all the 182
Assembly seats in next year’s state elections.

OBC leader Jagdish Thakor replaced Amit Chavda as the state Congress president, while tribal leader Sukhram Rathwa replaced Paresh Dhanani as leader of opposition.

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