Naming of new Gujarat CM: The inside story

PTI8_5_2016_000286B Newly elected Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and Deputy CM Nitin Patel gesture after a meeting at Gujarat BJP headquarters | PTI

Gujarat state president of the Bharatiya Janata Party, Vijay Rupani has been appointed new chief minister of the state on Friday while the number 2 in the cabinet Nitin Patel will be his deputy. The swearing-in ceremony is likely to be held on August 7.

The change in leadership came after Anandiben Patel quit the CM post on August 1 citing the 75-year age bar set by the party.

However, the announcements of new chief minister and his deputy were not as simple as they appear.

Until a few days ago, Rupani, considered close to party's national president Amit Shah, was the frontrunner for the CM post. But sources said that Anandiben had put her foot down and favoured Nitin Patel. This was so evident that even before Anandiben submitted her resignation to Governor O.P. Kohli, Rupani had told media that he was not in the race for chief ministership and that he would stick to party’s organisation work.

No sooner did he say this, the entire focus shifted to Nitin Patel. For the last two days, media continuously followed Patel’s all moves. So much so that on Friday, television channels interviewed his wife on the presumption that the announcement of his name was only a formality. In north Gujarat, from where he hails, people started celebrating even before his name was announced.

Though the meeting of party MLAs was slated to begin at 4 pm in Ahmedabad, it was delayed by more than one and a half hours. Sources said that before the meeting began, Shah and party observer Nitin Gadkari had gone into a huddle. Despite strong objections from Anandiben, Rupani was declared the chief minister and Patel was named the deputy CM.

Interestingly, this is for the second time that Patel has lost out in the race for chief ministership. When Narendra Modi became the prime minister, Patel was the senior most to occupy the post of Gujarat chief minister. However, Anandiben, a trusted lieutenant of Modi, was picked up for the job.

Despite being the right and left hands of Modi, Anandiben and Shah do not share a cordial relationship. The prime minister, however, did succeed in striking a balance by naming one as the chief minister and appointing another as party's national president.

While Shah had favoured Rupani, Patel was Anandiben’s choice. Sources said senior leader V. Satish had to telephone Modi and the RSS headquarters in Nagpur to diffuse the tension as Anandiben Patel was so adamant against Rupani's appointment as chief minister.

With Rupani declared the chief minister, it is loud and clear that Shah has prevailed in the selection of the candidate. Rupani will be the 16th chief minister of Gujarat.

Theories have started floating in the political circles that the appointment is a temporary announcement and that ultimately Shah would either become the chief minister after Uttar Pradesh election is over early next year or would be projected as the BJP’s chief ministerial face in the next election. Gujarat goes to polls by the end of 2017.

In naming Rupani from the Jain community as CM and Patel from Kadva Patel community as his deputy, the BJP may well have tried to strike a balance, but the Patidar community is not happy. Patidar Anamat Andolan Samiti convener Hardik Patel has alleged that it would be Shah who would remote control the functioning of the government.

The BJP would require sincere and smart efforts to quell the Patel agitation and the new Dalit uprising in the state. The Gujarat High Court on August 4 had rejected 10 per cent reservation under EBC.

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