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Former Chief Minister of Gujarat Keshubhai Patel passes away at 92

Vinayak Barot

AHMEDABAD, Oct 29: One of the founder leaders of the Jana Sangh and later the Bharatiya Janata Party in Gujarat and the former chief minister, Keshubhai Patel passed away in a private hospital in Ahmedabad on Thursday morning a few hours after he had complained of breathing trouble  and was hospitalised. He was 92.

The doctors treating him at the Sterling hospital said,  Keshubhai, who was found COVID-19 positive about a month ago, suffered a massive cardiac arrest causing his death.

An active leader of the BJP, Keshubhai was re-appointed the chairman of the Somnath Temple Trust only about a fortnight ago by other trustees who included the prime minister Narendra Modi and the veteran BP leader and former deputy prime minister L K Advani, and the former state chief secretary P K Lehri, who is also the managing trustee of the temple.

He was first elected the chief minister in 1995 but the government lasted just about seven months before his co-founder leader of the BJP Shankarsinh Vaghela revolted bringing about the downfall of the ministry.

He was re-elected the chief minister in 1998 and remained in the saddle till 2001 before he was replaced by Modi in the aftermath of the massive earthquake in January that year. During Patel’s tenure as the CM in 1995, Modi, the then state unit BJP organising secretary, was appointed by him as the co-ordinator between the organisational and the legislative wings of the party.

Modi led the team of mourners to send condolence messages as the news about his demise spread. In a tweet Modi said,  “Our beloved and respected Keshubhai has passed away…I am deeply pained and saddened. He was an outstanding leader who cared for every section of society. His life was devoted towards the progress of Gujarat and the empowerment of every Gujarati.”

In another tweet PM said “Keshubhai travelled across the length and breadth of Gujarat to strengthen the Jana Sangh and BJP. He resisted the Emergency tooth and nail. Issues of farmer welfare were closest to his heart. Be it as MLA, MP, Minister or CM, he ensured many farmer friendly measures were passed.”

“Keshubhai mentored and groomed many younger Karyakartas including me. Everyone loved his affable nature. His demise is an irreparable loss. We are all grieving today. My thoughts are with his family and well-wishers. Spoke to his son Bharat and expressed condolences. Om Shanti.” PM Modi tweeted

Keshubhai was elected as a member of the Gujarat Legislative Assembly six times. Following his differences with the party leadership, Patel had quit the BJP in 2012 and floated his own political party – Gujarat Parivartan Party.

But the party performed poorly in 2012 Assembly elections winning only two seats including his own Visavadar seat in Junagagh district. He expanded his party by merging the Mahagujarat Janata Party which then was floated by another BJP rebel Gordhan Jhadapiya, but failed to invoke much support from the people. A disappointed Keshubhai returned to the BJP in February, 2014, merging his  party with the parent organisation. However, since his return in the BJP, he by and large remained in the political wilderness. He had also resigned  from the state Assembly in 2014 due to ill-health.

Keshubhai Patel was born in Visavadar  in 1928. He joined the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) in 1945 as a pracharak. He started his political career as a worker of the Jan Sangh of which was he was a founder member in 1960s.

About a month back, Keshubhai was admitted in the Gandhinagar civil hospital after he tested Corona positive. His condition was reported stable till he developed breathing trouble on Thursday morning and was shifted to the private hospital in Ahmedabad where he breathed his last a few hours later.

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