Keshubhai Patel, former chief minister of Gujarat passes away at 92.

We 90’s kids from Gujarat have seen Gujarat evolving from all parameters and with various glorifying leaders. Keshubhai Patel was and will always be the strongest Pillar of Gujarat politics who has contributed lot in progress of Gujarat and also modified picture of Gujarat politics in late decades.  

The saga starts around in 1951. When Dr. Syama Prasad Mukharjee resigned from the Nehru cabinet , He was in search of young, enthusiastic and ground rooted leaders-volunteers to push their new party ( formed as “Bhartiya Jan Sangh”in 1960)  which was backed by RSS. While searching for strong youth base in Saurashtra (Gujarat) Dr. Mukharjee chose a young volunteer from Rajkot.  23 years old Farmer, who had his roots in Kheda and who was RSS Pracharak (since 1945)– Keshubhai Desai was the selected Leader who gave Gujarat politics a new dimension and immense strength.

In 1960 when Gujarat was formed, INC was the ruling party in Bombay state(then) and hence INC had been the first ruling party of Gujarat in inheritance. Even after being the strongest and oldest political party Indian National Congress had started experiencing turmoil back then and in Gujarat it was split in INC(I) and INC(O).

Young Keshubhai Patel( Keshubhai had Changed surname from Desai to Patel in 1984) was in strong opinion of- “ Gujarat needs a strong alternative of Congress other than rebel Congress(O).”  Keshubhai was the leader of mass and put his best to establish Bhartiya Jan Sangh in Gujarat deep rooted. Keshubhai’s efforts were on peak in 1975 when finally, they succeeded to form the first non-congress government where Jan Sangh made alliance with Morarji Desai’s Congress(O). During and after emergency the hold of INC started weakening in Gujarat. Keshubhai’s efforts were well acclaimed in win of Chiman Shukla in 1967 at Rajkot-2 and in 1973 when Jan Sangh-Congress-O alliance came in power in Rajkot Municipal Corporation. Keshubhai was the master mind in having Jan Sangh’s first member in Gujarat Assembly. 

Starting from Jan Sangh to Bhartiya Janta Party and from having 1 member in the Gujarat Assembly to having 100+ members in the Gujarat Assembly- Gujarat BJP has struggled a lot and contribution of Keshubhai is significant in it.  

Keshubhai Patel has been founding member of Gujarat Jan Sangh and the BJP, Gujarat Chief Minister two times, MLA 6 times and once MP.Keshubhai had been working at grassroot and was favourite leader of farmers. Keshubhai had been first BJP CM in Gujarat in 1995 with the successful slogan and campain- “Bhay, Bhukh and Brashtrachar same ni ladai” and successively won in 1997 as well.  

Keshubhai Patel did tremendous relief work in 1979 during Morbi Machchhu Dam Failure and people admired him for long for the same. Though post 1995 Keshubhai faced Allegations of abuse of power, corruption and poor administration. During 2001 Bhuj earthquake mismanagement in post-earthquake relief work ruined the power Keshubhai had. BJP’s national leadership replaced Keshubhai with Narendra Modi in 2001 to save Party’s power and prestige. 

Narendra Modi has reached the national politics as an alternative to Congress-Communist power, as a result of successes and also failures of Keshubhai’s politics.

Keshubhai, unhappy with Narendra Modi’s raising power departed from BJP in August 2012 and started a new party “Gujarat Parivartan Party”. Keshbhai left BJP, formed GPP but realized his mistake. It had an ideology similar to BJP, since it was impossible for Keshubhai to disown the political capital collected across all his RSS years. But it lacked the cadre which came from Sangh, once he left BJP. It is not that there is no space for alternate Hindu Nationalist politics, but it has to start from the ground, the cadre and Keshubhai got into it right into the dusk of his life. That is why he too realized when he failed and merged back into BJP in Feb, 2014.

Whether things would have been different if he had created a parallel party with clear ideological distinction against both Congress and BJP earlier in his life, is anybody’s guess. But then he had to live with the charge of mismanagement during post-Earthquake rebuilding of Gujarat and a failed branching out. Political successes and failures are built on many accidents and one cannot judge them with the benefits of hindsight.

Keshubhai has been a respected mentor for all BJP leaders and he will always be remembered as the Pioneer of BJP in Gujarat. Even though Keshubhai had departed to form GPP, Post Election victory Narendra Modi did visit him and took his blessings considering him mentor and political senior.

Recently recovered from Covid19, Keshubhai Patel died on 29th October, 2020 due to prolonged illness.

A larger than life leader who had seen all ups and downs in own political career and received tremendous love, respect and power is on his way to divine peace and ultimate Moksha.  

Our Hindu traditions and culture teaches us to remember the departed for all his good qualities and Great character and hence Keshubhai should be remembered as a Patriarch who contributed to the success of Gujarat, turning into making it a model state in spite of years of communal strife.

Keshubhai Patel is no more today but “KeshuBapa” will be immortal in our memories.

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