Speculations rife over change of guard in Gujarat

CM Rupani has faced flak for his alleged failure in handling COVID-19 situation

PTI1_15_2020_000154A (File) Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani | PTI

Speculations are rife in Gujarat over a possible change of guard at a time when the state is struggling to fight COVID-19, with the death toll having crossed the 400-mark.

Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani has been receiving a lot of flak from various quarters for his alleged failure to take the lead in containing the number of COVID-19 positive cases and deaths.

Even his deputy Nitin Patel, who is also the state health minister has been keeping a low-profile.

Sources told THE WEEK that even if Rupani manages to hang on to his post, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is unhappy with the manner in which the COVID-19 situation has been handled in Gujarat.

So, it comes as no surprise that Chief Principal Secretary to the chief minister, K. Kailashnathan, who usually keeps a low profile, is attending important meetings.

This is not the first time that speculations of a change in guard in the state are being floated.

When Rupani succeeded Anandiben Patel as the chief minister, a section of leaders in the BJP wanted Patel to be the CM. Anandiben herself wanted Patel to succeed her. However, Union Home Minister Amit Shah's decision had prevailed and Rupani was made the chief minister.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Rupani had raised hopes of being proactive, by appointing several IAS officers on COVID-19 duty. Recently, a new municipal commissioner, Mukesh Kumar, was appointed, while senior IAS officer Rajiv Gupta was given the charge of COVID-19-related activities in Ahmedadad. This, after incumbent Municipal Commissioner Vijay Nehra self-isolated himself after two persons whom he met, tested positive.

Sources say that political leaders in the party pressurised Rupani to sideline Nehra, as the latter did not get along well with them.

A couple of names are doing the rounds as likely successors to Rupani. One of the top names was of Mansukh Mandaviya, Minister of State For Shipping (Independent Charge) And Chemicals And Fertilizers.

However, on Thursday, Mandaviya took to social media to clarify that Gujarat is fighting COVID-19 unitedly under the leadership of Rupani. Saying that the state's interests are being harmed by such rumours, he asked people to stay away from both, rumours and COVID-19.

The other name is that of Praful Khoda Patel, Administrator, Union Territories of Daman Diu, Dadra and Nagar Haveli. He was also the former state home minister.

Gujarat BJP spokesperson Bharat Pandya told THE WEEK that the change of guard was just a rumour and that it should not be spread at a time when Gujarat is fighting against COVID-19.