The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Gujarat Governor in unity sermon

Ahmedabad, Dec. 27: Gujarat Governor S.S. Bhandari today promised the state that the new government would give top priority to unity and brotherhood as Mangaldas Patel was unanimously elected Assembly Speaker.

Addressing the 11th Assembly in Gandhinagar, Bhandari said the Narendra Modi-led government would make every attempt to ensure that no section of the society feels neglected and deprived.

The government will work for the masses, the Governor said, adding that he hoped the newly-elected representatives would cooperate in making the state modern, prosperous and safe to “lay a solid foundation for 21st century”.

He said Gujarat’s citizens have given their mandate for a “stable, progressive and dynamic government’’ that will uphold democratic values and resolve to fulfil the aspirations of the people.

Bhandari said the government is committed to scale new heights “with an unprecedented political will’’, relying completely on the unique identity of the state and the potential of its people.

Assuring full cooperation, Opposition leader Amarsinh Chaudhary put forward a 15-point charter of demands, asking the government to act immediately. He said while the Congress accepts the people’s verdict, “we will doubt the government’s intention if it fails to control the prices of groundnut oil which had skyrocketed before the elections”.

Earlier, Patel was elected the 13th Assembly Speaker. The 60-year-old Patel asked members to “cooperate and refrain from making any unwanted comments’’.

He promised to uphold the highest traditions and value of parliamentary democracy and said he expected the members to do the same.

Patel is a legislator from Mansa in north Gujarat and was chief whip of the BJP legislature party in the last Assembly. He was teaching biology at Mansa College till his election in 1998.

Patel became a household name in September 1999, when Keshubhai Patel was chief minister, after he moved the controversial anti-conversion Bill as a private member in the wake of the anti-Christian attacks in the Dangs the previous year. The Gujarat Freedom of Religion Bill — sought to prohibit conversion “by use of force or allurement or by fraudulent means”.

Although the BJP supported it, in keeping with tradition, it did not pass the Bill as it had been moved by a private member.

However, Patel’s basic purpose to highlight the “conversion issue’’ in the state’s eastern belt was served.

Despite being close to Modi, Patel was not the chief minister’s first choice for the post of Assembly Speaker. Party sources said Modi had former revenue minister and Keshubhai’s confidant Vajubhai Vala in mind. But Vala, who had vacated his Rajkot-2 seat for Modi earlier this year, refused to oblige.

After Vala’s refusal, former health minister Ashok Bhatt, former civil supplies minister Bharat Barot and a couple of other names were discussed. But all of them declined the offer. Finally, the BJP leadership asked Patel to take up the job.

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