Vijay Rupani named Guj CM, Nitin Patel is deputy
Health minister Nitin Patel, who too was a strong contender for the top job, was named Rupani’s deputy. This was the first time the BJP, grappling with a string of protests by the Patel community, or Patidars, and Dalits, selected a deputy chief minister in the state.
In its edition dated August 4, Millennium Post was the first to report that Rupani was likely to be
sworn in as chief minister of Gujarat after Anandiben’s resignation.
The veteran Jain leader enjoys the confidence of both Prime Minister Modi and party chief Amit Shah. That may have swung things Rupani’s way. Union minister Nitin Gadkari announced the appointments after a meeting of party MLAs in Gandhinagar led by national president Amit Shah.
Outgoing chief minister Anandiben Patel, who offered to resign four days ago, proposed Rupani’s name in the meet attended by all 121 state BJP legislators.
The BJP hopes that Rupani will be able to manage the caste arithmetic in the politically crucial state. Rupani, the transport and water supply minister in the outgoing government, is from Rajkot, the heartland of Saurashtra, which has a sizeable population of both Patels and Dalits.
Rupani’s deputy, Patel, is an influential leader from northern Gujarat, the epicentre of the Patidar protests.
The CM and his deputy have a daunting task ahead. They have to provide good governance, mend fences with the irate Patel and Dalit communities, battle two decades of anti-incumbency and improve ties between the government and the party machinery. And all this will have to be done in less than a year, before the polls in 2017.
The BJP has been in power in Gujarat for two decades now but the past two years have seen the party’s fortunes slide in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state.
The party faced an angry backlash after the Dalit flogging incident in Una apart from reversals in rural areas in civic polls, which together seem to have dented its image and support base,prompting Anandiben to quit.
In addition, the Patels are threatening to renew protests after the Gujarat high court cancelled 10 per cent quota for the poor among upper castes, a move by the state government to placate the influential community.
Violent demonstrations by Patels seeking quotas in jobs and college seats shook the state government last year and caused a BJP rout in local body polls.