New Delhi: Miffed Gujarat Deputy CM Nitin Patel was finally pacified by BJP chief Amit Shah on Sunday after the latter promised him the portfolios he had sought for.
Speaking to reporters, Patel said, “Party chief Amit Shah this morning promised to allot the ministries I had sought. I will go to Secretariat and take charge of the ministries today.”
Nitin Patel, a political heavyweight and one of the party's most important Patidar faces, had reportedly threatened to quit the government after being denied the finance and urban development portfolios.
Patidar agitation leader Hardik Patel on Saturday taunted the BJP by inviting Nitin to defect, offering to secure him a "good deal" with the Congress.
"If the BJP doesn't respect him, he should leave the party," Hardik, 24, told reporters. "If Nitin Patel defects along with 10 MLAs, I will talk to the Congress to get him a good position."
Nitin had earlier said the issue was about "self-respect", PTI reported. It quoted him: "I have conveyed my feelings to the party high command and I'm hopeful they will give a proper reply to my feelings soon. This is not about some departments, this is about self- respect."
Chief minister Vijay Rupani declined comment on Saturday except for saying that Nitin remained his "number two" with or without the finance portfolio.
Nitin held the finance and urban portfolios in the previous government but has been given health and education, instead, along with a few other ministries this time. Sources said a slighted Nitin had refrained from assuming charge of his new departments.
The finance portfolio has gone to another Patidar politician, Saurabh Patel, while Rupani has kept urban development with himself. Saurabh, a relative of the Ambanis, is an entrant from the corporate world and is not seen primarily as a community leader unlike Nitin, who rose from the grassroots.
Nitin became a minister first in 1995, when he held the health portfolio, and was tipped to take over as chief minister in 2016 when the BJP decided to replace Anandiben Patel. But the low-profile Rupani, known to be close to Shah, pipped him at the post.
The BJP has 99 seats, 7 more than the majority mark in the 182-member Assembly. A defection by 10 MLAs would reduce the government to a minority.
Hardik's fellow Patidar leader Lalji Patel has called for a bandh in Mehsana on January 1 and demanded that Nitin be made chief minister.
A BJP politician said: "This episode sends out a message to the Patidars that their leaders are not being treated well by the BJP. This is not good for the party."
(With additional information from The Telegraph, Calcutta)