Central leadership crowns Siddharth Patel as new GPCC Chief

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Ahmedabad, Jul 7 (UNI) Senior Congress leader and legislator from Dabhoi, Siddharth Patel has been appointed the new chief of the Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee (GPCC), ahead of next year's Lok Sabha elections.

A Gujarat Congress Spokesman Jayantibhai Parmar told UNI that Mr Patel's name was cleared by the Central Leadership today and announced in New Delhi. He replaces out-going GPCC president Bharatsinh Solanki.

Another senior party leader said since the sitting party chief, Mr Solanki, was removed for balancing caste equations in the state, there was no other alternative but Patel.

In fact, the decision to replace Solanki resulted in a leadership crisis in the state, but the crisis has now been overcome with Patel's appointment,'' the leader said.

According to another party source, Patel's name was finalised after a negotiated settlement of terms between the two rival factions in Gujarat Congress. Groups led by Sonia Gandhi's political advisor Ahmed Patel and Union Textile Minister Shankersinh Vaghela had demanded that the state unit be overhauled on the lines of the party unit in neighbouring Rajasthan.

Party leaders and workers believe that Patel is the best choice at the moment, as he can mobilise the politically dominant Patel community for the Congress. Patels have been accusing the Congress of sidelining them, a fact that forced them to transfer their loyalty to the BJP and bring it to power in the mid-nineties.

Since then, the BJP has held its ground in the state.

The move to appoint a new party chief had been initiated soon after the appointment of Bhavnagar MLA, Shaktisinh Gohil as the Leader of the Opposition in the Gujarat Assembly, after the December 2007 polls. But it was postponed due to a lack of consensus on any of the contenders.

Solanki did well to revive the ailing party in the state and led the fight against the formidable BJP and particularly Chief Minister Narendra Modi. He is being replaced only because both the party chief and the leader of the opposition cannot be from the same community. Solanki and Gohil belong to the Kshatriya community.

UNI MP SR SB HT1612

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