Though undeclared, the age bar of 75 years for the ministers is no secret under the current BJP-led dispensation, given recent resignations of two ministers from the Central government – Minority Affairs minister Najma Heptulla and MoS Heavy Industries and Public Enterprise, GM Siddeshwara. The development has now stoked speculations over the fate of Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel, who will touch the line on November 21 this year.
While it is not the first time that speculations have hovered over Ms Patel. Last year too, her future was subject of debate in the backdrop of massive Patidaar agitation.
“This question about Patel, when she turns 75 is on everybody’s mind,” said a BJP leader on the condition of anonymity.
“Speculations are on if she will be asked to quit or will she be an exception and allowed to continue for one more year till 2017 Assembly polls,” said another leader, who also refused to be named.
Before Heptulla and Siddeshwara, a couple of ministers in Madhya Pradesh including senior leader Babulal Gaur and Sartaj Singh were dropped from the state cabinet by Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan due to the age bar.
In 2014, when the Narendra Modi government came to power, the age bar had cancelled out ministerial berths for senior leaders like L K Advani, Murli Manohar Joshi, Shanta Kumar and Yashwant Sinha, who are now part of BJP’s Margdarshak Mandal.
Coming back to Anandiben Patel… she has been a minister in the BJP government since 1998 and took over the baton as the Chief Minister of Gujarat from PM Modi post 2014 General Election.
With elections in the state due in the later part of 2017, political circles are rife with conjectures that BJP is perhaps facing a tough challenge on its proven turf. In fact, the party had to face defeat, in some cases a big one, in the rural civic bodies polls in December 2015.
This was considered as a major loss for her as opposition Congress was able to win polls after almost 25 years in the state.
Besides, the Congress party has upped its ante against her, levelling allegations of corruption against her. However, on the possibility of any change of guard in the ruling camp, the Congress party too is silent.
“This is the internal matter of BJP. But, we believe that this rule is followed as per the convenience of the party leadership. If they want to keep someone then they do it and if somebody is to be removed the rule is followed,” Congress spokesperson Manish Doshi said.
(With inputs from the PTI)