Keshubhai Patel, a former chief minister of Gujarat from the Bharatiya Janata Party, died on 29 October. Narendra Modi had succeeded Patel as chief minister in 2001. In this excerpt from “The Emperor Uncrowned,” a profile of Modi in The Caravan’s March 2012 issue, Vinod K Jose, the executive editor of the publication, charts the trajectory of Modi’s relationship with Patel.
Modi had risen quickly within the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, but to gain real political power, he had to cross over from the purely ideological realm of the RSS into the BJP. That process began in 1987, when he was appointed as the organisation secretary for Gujarat—the person within the state RSS responsible for overseeing the BJP. Unlike the BJP state or national presidents, who are public figures, the organisation secretary is supposed to operate privately, directing the party from behind the scenes and serving as a “bridge” between the RSS and its political affiliate.
The eight years that Modi spent as organisation secretary in Gujarat coincided with an era of rapid growth for the state BJP, which went from 11 seats in the state assembly in 1985 to 121 a decade later. Though there were two very senior leaders at the helm of the state party—Keshubhai Patel and Shankarsinh Vaghela, both former Gujarat BJP presidents—Modi became a third power centre, exerting influence over the formation of alliances and the selection of candidates for state and national elections.