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Vijay Rupani drops nine Anandiben loyalists

Nitin Patel, whom the outgoing chief minister had as pitched as her successor, took oath as the Deputy Chief Minister, a post created for the first time in the state which goes to polls next year.

The most notable omission from Anandiben Patel’s cabinet in the new team is Saurabh Patel. A fourth term MLA, Saurabh Patel is the husband of the first cousin of Mukesh and Anil Ambani. He is the son-in-law of Ramnikbhai Ambani, the elder brother of late Dhirubhai Ambani, the founder of the Reliance Industries. Patel was Finance Minister in the last government.

Governor O P Kohli administered the oath of office and secrecy to 60-year-old Rupani, a first time MLA who is considered close to BJP president Amit Shah, and Nitin Patel at a grand ceremony attended by top BJP leaders. Rupani is the 16th chief minister of Gujarat. Ahead of 2017 Assembly polls in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state, BJP appears to have tried to strike a caste balance by inducting eight Patel leaders, eight OBCs, three from Kshatriya community, two representatives of tribal community and one each from Brahmin, Jain, Sindhi and Dalit communities in the new council of ministers.

There is also an attempt to give representation to all regions: Saurashtra, north, south and central Gujarat. The cabinet has only one woman, Nirmala Wadhwani, MLA from Naroda. Eight cabinet-rank ministers, including Nitin Patel, and 16 ministers of state in all were sworn in. The total strength the ministry including the Chief Minister is 25.

A devoted RSS member since his school days, Rupani, hailing from politically significant Saurashtra region, is known for his hard work but keeps a low profile. The ceremony was held at Mahatma Mandir here in the presence of top BJP leaders including its president Amit Shah, veteran leader L K Advani, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Union Science and Technology Minister Harsh Vardhan.

Chief Ministers of Maharashtra, Jharkhand and Haryana -- Devendra Fadnavis, Raghubar Das and Manohar Lal Khattar, respectively -- were also there. Anandiben Patel was also present.

Former Minister of State for Home Rajnibhai Patel and Women and Child Development Minister Vasuben Trivedi, both considered Anandiben loyalists, were dropped from the new cabinet. Others who were dropped from the ministry include Finance Minister Saurabh Patel, Social Justice Minister Ramanlal Vora and MoS for Science and Technology Govind Patel. Talking to reporters after the oath-taking ceremony, Rupani indicated that allocation of portfolios may take place on Monday. “Our first cabinet meet will take place on Monday. We will discuss the roadmap of Gujarat’s future,” he said.
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