New Delhi, September 11
Union health minister Mansukh Mandaviya and Gujarat deputy chief minister Nitinbhai Patel have emerged among frontrunners in the race for Gujarat chief minister-ship moments after the sudden resignation of the incumbent Vijay Rupani, who quit saying the state needed to move forward with new energy and focus.
Mandaviya, recently elevated to the Cabinet rank as health minister, is a prominent Patel leader from Gujarat and is being groomed for a while since he became the youngest MLA in the state assembly in 2002. Mandaviya is 49-year-old, and scores on the age card, with the BJP, of late banking on younger leaders in matters of change of guard.
Nitinbhai Patel, union minister Parshottam Rupala, state BJP in charge CR Patil, state minister RC Faldu and BJP Gujarat vice president Gordhan Zadafia are also among probables.
BJP sources said the legislative party meeting is expected to be held on Tuesday to elect the new CM.
As of today, Mandaviya is already in Gujarat and has met Rupani.
BJP in-charge for Gujarat Bhupendra Yadav and party organisational secretary BL Santosh are also there with Home Minister Amit Shah expected to reach Ahmedabad to get a sense of the leaders on the way forward.
Rupani while resigning spoke of the need for new energy in the state and thanked the prime minister for allowing a ‘worker like him to contribute to the development journey of the state.”
“I am grateful to the PM who allowed me to contribute to the Gujarat development journey.
The journey must go on with new energy and focus under the leadership of the PM. The hallmark of the BJP is infusion of new energy. We as party workers execute the responsibility the party gives us and I will also do the same.”
Rupani’s resignation comes barely five years after Anandiben Patel resigned making way for him.
The resignation is learnt to be rooted in ground surveys that suggest huge anti-incumbency against Rupani.
The BJP cannot afford to allow electoral dents in Gujarat, the home state of PM Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah.
The change of guard, sources said, is in line with the BJP’s urge to become battle ready in key election bound states.
Similar changes recently happened in Karnataka and Uttrakhand.
Sources said the challenge for the BJP is to strike a caste balance at a time when the state Congress in charge of Hardik Patel, the face of the Patidar Anamat Andolan, which had allowed the Congress to make considerable dents in BJP’s Gujarat bastions in the last state elections, even though the BJP had eventually won.
Any dilution in BJP’s electoral prowess in Gujarat would mean a dilution in the public image of the PM and Shah, something the BJP can ill afford.
That explains the party’s urge to replace the CM well in time to lay a ground for 2022 polls.
The BJP has been in power in Gujarat for over 20 years now, having won all elections since 2002. This would be the fifth direct term the BJP will be seeking and the second since Narendra Modi became PM in 2014.