One of the earliest leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Gujarat, Keshubhai Patel, has formally resigned from the party. Disenchanted with the party with the Sangh and the BJP with which he was associated all his political life, the former chief minister of the state is now preparing to launch a new political outfit.
Keshubhai Savdas Patel was born on July 24, 1928 in Visavadar town of Junagadh district. He became a pracharak of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in 1945 and rose to become the chief minister of Gujarat in 1995. However, he soon faced a revolt against his rule and had to resign before leading the BJP to a stunning electoral victory in 1998.
The Patel stalwart has seen it all — from an RSS pracharak to a worker in the erstwhile Jan Sangh and then a senior organiser in the Bhartiya Janta Party. From here he went on to become the chief minister of the state.
Like many other leaders of the Sangh Parivar, Keshubhai was also imprisoned for a year during the Emergency. After coming out of prison, he won the Lok Sabha elections from Rajkot in 1977. However, he resigned from parliament as the BJP wanted him to work in Gujarat. He joined Babubhai Shah’s government as agriculture minister. Between 1978 and 1995, he won assembly elections from various constituencies in Saurashtra such as Kalavad, Gondal and Visavadar.
He successfully spearheaded the campaign against the Congress with the slogan, “Bhay, Bhukh and Brashtrachar same ni ladai” (Fight against Fear, Hunger and Corruption) and became chief minister in 1995.
However, his friend and former member of the RSS, Shankarsinh Vaghela, led a revolt against him and Keshubhai was forced to resign. This was followed by Vaghela splitting the BJP. In 1998, Keshubhai came back to power with a clear majority and was chief minister till 2001 when he was unceremoniously removed and replaced by Narendra Modi as chief minister of Gujarat. “His political career has seen more downs than ups. He, however, has remained calm all through. He is a party man and always has worked for the benefit of the party and the common man,” said a senior RSS functionary and long time aide of Patel.
Another senior leader also said that Keshubhai remained a common man at heart despite his rise in politics.
“As Gujarat’s agriculture minister in the Morcha government (1977-1980), farmers and villagers admired him because he spoke in a language they understood. He was popular then and is popular even now,” he said.