Ahmedabad: As the Gujarat Assembly election verdict came in favour of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the party leadership heaved a sigh of relief at being able to retain power in the home turf of both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party chief Amit Shah. Uncertainty, however, remains about the chief ministerial face of the state.
Although Shah mentioned incumbent Vijay Rupani's extension during the poll campaign, the latter's failure to conquer "Mission 150" has created a bit of a question mark on his chances. It also witnessed a hasty call of the BJP's Parliamentary Board meeting in the presence of PM Modi on Monday evening at the party headquarters in the national capital, where an observation team was formed with Union Minister Arun Jaitley and party general secretary Saroj Pandey.
The team will take feedback from all BJP MLAs of Gujarat and submit a report to the Parliamentary Board and then the CM's name will be announced. Reportedly, the central leadership of the saffron party is considering replacing Rupani despite his victory from the Rajkot West seat.
Meanwhile, a few names have also being reported— Union Minister Mansukhbhai Mandviya and BJP Gujarat state unit president Jitubhai Vaghani are the frontrunners. Mandviya was the party's in-charge for Saurashtra for the Assembly elections, which has been the epicenter of the Patidar agitation and Hardik Patel's bastion.
Sources said that he also played a key role in exposing the CDs of Hardik Patel. But the saffron party failed to retain the trust of Patidars in the region. BJP state president Jitubhai Vaghani is believed to be the dark horse, because despite the Patidar agitation in Saurashtra, he managed to win from Bhavnagar (West) in the region.
Vaghani is also a prominent young Patidar face for the saffron party and enjoys close proximity with BJP chief Amit Shah. The emergence of two young leaders Alpesh Thakor and Jignesh Mevani, with the support of the Congress, also indicate that the saffron party needs to project a young, charismatic face to counter them.
Sources said that BJP insiders have given an indication that after the loss of 16 seats in Gujarat, the party brass is now keen to appoint someone who has a strong public appeal and, as the next CM, can deliver on the promises made to the people of the state. The "99 seats" in BJP's bag also indicate that the incumbent party has to hunt a lot for a credible face who can hold sway over the people and hold the party's Gujarat fortress intact, feel observers.