Gandhinagar: Vijay Rupani will continue as chief minister of Gujarat and Nitin Patel as his deputy, union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley announced on Friday evening after a meeting of the BJP's newly-elected legislators in state capital Gandhinagar.
- Vijay Rupani was chosen as legislature party leader unanimously
- Mr Rupani, 61, is close to BJP chief Amit Shah
- He has a clean image and is caste neutral
"Vijay Rupani was chosen as Legislature party leader unanimously, Nitin Bhai Patel as the deputy Legislature party leader in a meeting today. Will inform you all about the swearing in soon," Mr Jaitley told reporters, also adding, that all the BJP's legislators were present at the meeting.
Vijay Rupani, 61, is close to party chief Amit Shah who had earlier this year indicated that he and deputy chief minister Nitin Patel would continue in their positions post the assembly elections, results for which were declared on Monday. Mr Rupani has a clean image and is caste neutral, but his chances of being retained to the top post were seen to diminish after the BJP won 99 seats, only seven more than it needed for a majority to form government and 16 less than it had won last time. The party now has 100 in the assembly with an independent MLA Ratansinh Rathod from Lunawada offering support to the party.
The Congress vastly improved its position winning 80 seats along with allies after a campaign focused on local development, and Vijay Rupani's critics blamed him. But there are those who have pointed out that replacing Vijay Rupani would've amounted to an admission that the party has suffered a setback in Gujarat.
After the muted result the party took time to make a decision amid speculation over other probable candidates for the top post, like union ministers Purshottam Rupala and Mansukh Mandaviya, both prominent Patel or Patidar leaders from Saurashtra, the region where the BJP lost most heavily.
Vijay Rupani was chosen to be chief minister last year in the run-up to the Gujarat elections as the BJP effected damage control after then Chief Minister Anandiben Patel was seen to have mishandled the massive Patel agitation for reservation in government jobs and colleges and a Dalit agitation after four Dalit men were brutally beaten in the state's Una.
Nitin Patel, who many thought then would be made chief minister, became deputy chief minister and was tasked with assuaging the influential Patel or Patidar community to which he belongs. Mr Patel won his election by a slender margin in Mehsana, which was the epicentre of the Patel agitation. The Patels have been BJP loyalists for years, but a section went against the party in this election, angry at not being included among castes that benefit from affirmative action.
Vijay Rupani won from Rajkot West by over 25,000 votes.