Vijay Rupani to be CM; dramatically edges out favourite Nitin Patel whom Anandiben was pitching for; Patel will be Dy CM
Gandhinagar: Vijay Rupani, the Gujarat state BJP chief and a close confidante of national party president Amit Shah, was on Friday elected as the chief minister; he will replace Anandiben Patel.
Rupani beat his senior, State health minister Nitin Patel, to the post. For days Patel was tipped to be the frontrunner, but he has been asked to play the second fiddle as the deputy chief minister.
The decision was not without fireworks: Outgoing Chief Minister Anandiben Patel vociferously opposed Rupani’s elevation but she lost out to Bharatiya Janata Party President Amit Shah. There is little love lost between the former CM and Shah.
Friday’s decision was taken at a meeting of the Gujarat BJP legislature party presided over by Shah amid heated arguments; the announcement was made by union transport minister Nitin Gadkari, the observer.
Anandiben, who quit through a surprise Facebook post on Monday, registered her protest against Rupani. She charged Rupani and other party leaders with engineering the Patidar agitation that shook her government, party sources said. She claimed that against Nitin Patel’s long experience, Rupani was a first-time MLA and had no administrative experience
Amid all this, BJP organising secretary V. Satish once came out of the meeting and spoke to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on phone. Gadkari also had a chat with party leaders in Delhi. Later, a dejected Patel told some journalists: “God only knows what happened.”
The meeting that was largely meant to formally announce the new Chief Minister in front of the legislators at 4 p.m. got delayed by nearly two hours. This was the first indication that something was amiss.
Rupani’s name came as a surprise to most people since Patel was being presumed the final choice and had even started giving veiled interviews to news channels.
Rupani, who holds an LLB degree, is not only close to Modi and Amit Shah but also believed to have maintained the right links with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Singh since he started his career from the Sangh student wing ABVP. He will lead the party into the 2017 elections; through Rupani, who belongs to the Jain community, BJP seeks to send a message to Saurashtra that has over 40 assembly seats
Interestingly, a day before the legislature party meeting, Rupani had ruled himself out of the fray saying that he was an organizational man and would continue to do duty for the party. This ignited speculation in favour of Patel. However, two closed door meetings back to back on Friday seem to have altered the situation leading to Rupani bagging the post and Patel becoming his deputy.
Why a deputy chief minister? Media persons asked Gadkari who was quick to answer “Sabka saath sabka vikas’’.
Making his first remarks after the selection, Rupani was careful in his choice of words. “Gratitude….for handing over the responsibility to me and Nitinbhai,” said Rupani, assuring that the duo will work together.
Gadkari said that it was a unanimous and “democratic” choice by the party. He said discussions were held with the Prime Minister, with parliamentarians and MLAs.
Contenders for the top post also included Assembly Speaker Ganpat Vasava, union minister and another prominent Patidar face from Saurashtra Parshottam Rupala and, Bhikhubhai Dalsania.