Brave, determined and dedicated, Anandiben Patel holds the rare distinction of being Gujarat’s first woman Chief Minister. She has been a minister in the Gujarat Government since 1998, and made significant contributions to the Gujarat Model of Development during her tenure as minister of Education, Roads and Building, Capital Development, Women and Child development as well as Disaster Management, over the years.
She also holds the distinction of being the only woman MLA to have won four consecutive elections in Gujarat, from three different constituencies. She has been a senior minister in one of the most stable state governments India has seen in the past decade.
Belonging to a humble farmer family in Vijapur, Mahesana, Anandiben understood the value of education at a very tender age when her parents sent her school, much against prevalent norms then. She was the only girl in her school. She went on to study for a graduate and postgraduate degree in science. This was followed by an M.Ed degree in teaching, where she also bagged a gold medal for her performance. Having been a teacher and then principal at Mohnibai Kanya Vidyalaya, she understood the shortcomings of the education system in intricate detail.
Her vision for education reform in the state materialised when she was made Minister of Education in the BJP government. She initiated various flagship schemes like Kanya Kelavni and Shala Praveshotsav, aimed at achieving 100% enrolment among eligible children and encouraging female education. She also undertook programs like Swachhta Sankul to improve sanitation facilities in schools. Being the first minister of newly formed separate department for Women and Child Development in the state, Anandiben was a catalyst in creating Sakhi Mandals (self help groups for women) across the state, to empower women.
During her tenure as MP in the Rajya Sabha (1994-98), Anandiben represented India at the Fourth World Women’s Conference in Beijing, China. She also travelled to Bulgaria with the then Leader of Opposition, Atal Bihari Vajpayee. She travelled to several countries in Europe and North America in a bid to learn about educational institutions in the West. In 2002, she travelled to South Africa and Namibia in the African continent as a member of the Commonwealth Parliamentary Association. She has represented Gujarat as an investment friendly state, during visits to the United States of America and the United Kingdom. She has always been interested to learn about welfare policies, culture and lifestyle of the countries she visits.
Known for giving her best in whatever she does, she was conferred the President’s award for the Best teacher. She exemplified her bravery and concern for her students when she jumped into River Narmada to rescue two girls from her school, while on a picnic.
Anandiben strongly believes in grassroots level engagement, and makes it a point to visit and review district functioning across the state during weekends. She is known to be active and healthy and attributes much of this to yoga which she unfailingly practices every morning.
Anandiben Patel is the founder of Gramshree Trust, an NGO that works to empower Anganwadis in slum areas while also providing training and assistance to women to promote self-employment. The trust also sets up centres to distribute products that have been made by such women, and regularly organises health check up camps for women and children.
Her fearless attitude was once again evident when she joined senior BJP leaders on the ‘Ekata Yatra’ from Kanyakumari to Srinagar in 1992, despite looming threats of terrorist attacks on the yatra. She was the only women leader from Gujarat to participate in this yatra, and proudly unfurled the tricolour at Laalchawk in Srinagar on Republic Day.
She is an ardent advocate of employing technology for good governance and development. She is very passionate for issues related to women and children, particularly combating malnutrition. This is why, instead of being felicitated by flowers and garlands, she prefers to be felicitated by fruits and other nutritious items, which she distributes among the needy, after the event.
After serving the state in the capacity of Minister since 1998, Mrs. Patel has been unanimously chosen as the Chief Minister of Gujarat. She hopes to take Gujarat to new heights, on the roadmap carved out by her predecessor.
She is handling many important portfolios currently, some of which include Home , Revenue, Urban Development and Industries