Hot seat

Low-key Mandaviya may pip 'outspoken' Smriti Irani to Gujarat CM post

mansukh-mandaviya-twitter Union Minister Mansukh Mandaviya presenting sweets to Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani after the election victory | Mansukh Mandaviya's Twitter account

After the BJP was made to fight hard to retain its bastion of Gujarat by the Congress, the saffron party's central leadership is considering a replacement for incumbent Chief Minister Vijay Rupani. The names of Union Ministers Smriti Irani and Mansukh Mandaviya are doing the rounds.

However Mandaviya, 45, played down the speculation while interacting with THE WEEK. “All this is media speculation. I am not in the race for the post of the chief minister of Gujarat. I am happy to be the Union minister of state for road transport and highways.”

Mandaviya is young and is said to be very close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi. There is talk that the party could favour Mandaviya, as he belongs to the Patidar community.

If Mandaviya is made the CM, it will also propitiate the Patidar community that has been demanding reservation in jobs and education.

Sources in the BJP said party president Amit Shah won’t prefer a high-profile and outspoken leader like Irani as the chief minister of Gujarat, as it could shrink the Modi-Shah magic and their clout in the state.

The party is also said to be considering Governor of Karnataka, Vajubhai Vala, 78, for the CM’s post. Vala had served as the speaker of the Gujarat Assembly from 2012 to 2014.

“Most likely, it will be Vijay Rupani who will be the chief minister of the state, though the final decision will be taken by the prime minister and the party president,” said a senior party leader.

Rupani could face the heat for the BJP’s performance in the state, where it won much lesser seats than what it had expected. After two decades, the Congress made impressive progress in the BJP's stronghold.

Other sources indicate that Shah himself could take up the post. But it is highly unlikely as important assembly elections are lined up in 2018 and the party needs his far-seeing strategies.

The BJP has appointed senior leaders Arun Jaitley and Saroj Pandey as observers for the selection of the CM in Gujarat. The final announcement is likely on December 22.

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