Amin, the ‘Chimanbhai group’ man

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Narhari Amin, now 60, spent over 20 years in the Congress before joining the BJP on Thursday, but it was the "JD(G) group" tag that stuck all through.

Amin began his career with the late Chimanbhai Patel who was ousted as chief minister in 1973 at the end of the Navnirman movement. The reward for staying with the ousted chief minister came 17 years later, with Patel returning to power in 1990. Amin handled home and education in the Janata Dal (Gujarat) regime under Patel, who died in February 1993.

Patel's government, which started with a partnership with the BJP, was the the first non-Congress government in Gujarat. Later, Patel parted ways with the BJP and merged the JD(G) into the Congress in 1992. Yet the JD(G) tag stuck, not only on Amin but on others such as Chhabildas Mehta (who succeeded Chimanbhai as chief minister), Dinsha Patel and Balubhai Patel. This was because, the merger notwithstanding, the JD(G) group was always made to feel distinct from the "original" Congress, leaving Amin and the other leaders forever uncomfortable.

The other factor Amin is identified with is his deep involvement in cricket in Gujarat and education. He remained the unquestioned head of the Gujarat Cricket Association for nearly 17 years until the stint was broken by BJP legislator Amit Shah, who engineered the removal of Amin and his loyalists from the GCA in 2009. Besides being president of the GCA, Amin was also vice-president of the BCCI for many years. On Thursday, Amit Shah held hands with Amin, whom he had wanted out of the GCA.

Amin, a Patel leader known for plainspeak, had of late emerged a frequent election loser. The last time he won was in a byelection from Sabarmati in September 2001, where he defeated the BJP's Babubhai Patel by over 18,000 votes. He lost in the subsequent elections in December 2002 from the same constituency.

Not counting the bypoll victory, Amin lost four Assembly elections since 1995, but had always managed to secure a Congress ticket for himself — until this time. It was this denial that led to his defection. Amin was, in fact, a strategist in decisions concerning allocation of party tickets to candidates for civic elections in Gujarat.

Amin runs five educational institutions under the Jan Sahyak Trust (Hiramani Educational Complex) on Sarkhej-Gandhinagar Highway.

His elder brother, Ghanshyam Amin, is with the Congress and a veteran cooperatives leader in Gujarat. He says he will not follow Narhari into the BJP but felt that the Congress leadership had made the criteria tight with the objective of ensuring Narhari would not qualify for a ticket. "They feared that if the Congress came to power, Narhari would stake claim to the post of CM, so they pre-empted this," he said.

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