Miffed at being given “light-weight” portfolios, Gujarat Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel was on Friday conspicuous by his absence in his office even as all the newly-anointed Cabinet colleagues took charge of their respective ministries allotted to them by Chief Minister Vijay Rupani in the new BJP government in Gujarat.
Patel was holding the hefty departments of Finance, Petrochemicals, Urban Development and Urban Housing, Roads and Buildings, Capital Project, Narmada, and Kalpasar, in the previous regime. Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, who took more than 48 hours to decide on his new team, snatched Finance, Petrochemicals and Urban Development and Housing from Nitin Patel this time.
The crucial portfolios of Finance and Petrochemicals have been given to Saurabh Patel, who was curiously dropped when Rupani took over the reins the first time in August 2016, while the Chief Minister has himself retained the Urban Development and Housing beat.
Saurabh Patel, the son-of-law of industry doyen Dhirubhai Ambani’s elder brother Ramnik Ambani, won the Botad seat by a narrow margin of 900 votes. He was earlier an MLA from Akota constituency in Vadodara city.
Sources claimed that Rupani took a long time to decide his team because Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah were reportedly busy in finalising the name of the new Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister and he would not take a unilateral decision.
While the new 20-member two-tier Rupani Cabinet was sworn in on December 26 in the presence of a huge gathering, attended among others by Prime Minister Modi, Shah and chief ministers of all 18 BJP-ruled states as well as Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar, it took late Thursday night for the portfolios to be finalised and distributed.
Not only did Nitin Patel keep away from office most of Friday, Secretariat reports claimed that the veteran politician used his personal four-wheeler instead of the government vehicle and official escort.
The Deputy Chief Minister looked glum and lost even during the first joint press conference of the new Cabinet late on Thursday night and maintained an uncanny silence.
The meeting had itself started after a delay at 9 p.m. in the wake of arguments over portfolio distribution. Besides Nitin Patel, former senior cabinet Minister Babubhai Bokhiria from Porbander and former Minister of state from Vadodara Rajendra Trivedi expressed their anger at being dropped.
Meanwhile, it was difficult to reach Nitin Patel on Friday and he did not return the calls made to him for his version of the story.