New Guj CM: Jain leader Vi­jay Ru­pani to take over 13 killed in As­sam mil­i­tant at­tack

EYE ON 2017 POLLS BJP names Nitin Pa­tel deputy CM to woo back the Pa­tels

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - HT Navi Mumbai Live - - FRONT PAGE - Hi­ral Dave let­ters@hin­dus­tan­times.com Ut­pal Parashar ut­pal.parashar@hin­dus­tan­times.com

The BJP named Vi­jay Ru­pani as Gu­jarat’s new chief min­is­ter and Nitin Pa­tel his deputy on Fri­day, en­trust­ing two of its most pow­er­ful state lead­ers the re­spon­si­bil­ity of re­viv­ing the party’s pop­u­lar­ity among vot­ers.

Ru­pani has his job cut out. He has to pla­cate an­gry Pa­tel and Dalit com­mu­ni­ties, bat­tle two decades of anti-in­cum­bency and re­pair ties be­tween the gov­ern­ment and the party. And all this be­fore the state elec­tions that are due by De­cem­ber, 2017.

In choos­ing Ru­pani over Pa­tel, who was seen as a front-run­ner for the top job till Thurs­day, the BJP hopes that his non-dom­i­nant Jain back­ground would help neu­tralise caste equa­tions in a state where the Pa­tel and Dalit com­mu­ni­ties are cru­cial vote banks.

Ru­pani, 61, hails from Ra­jkot, the heart­land of Saurash­tra which has a sig­nif­i­cant pop­u­la­tion of both Pa­tels and Dal­its.

On the other hand, Nitin Pa­tel en­joys sig­nif­i­cant clout in north Gu­jarat, which was the epi­cen­tre of last year’s vi­o­lent protests by the Pati­dar or Pa­tels de­mand­ing quo­tas for the com­mu­nity in col­leges and jobs. His ap­point­ment could help woo back the Pa­tels, the BJP’s tra­di­tional back­ers who had be­gun drift­ing away.

“The re­spon­si­bil­ity I have been handed is great and we are thank­ful for this,” Ru­pani said af­ter be­ing named the chief min­is­ter. “(I) will put in all the ef­forts to make Gu­jarat Out­go­ing Guj CM Anandiben Pa­tel (right) greets Vi­jay Ru­pani in Gand­hi­na­gar. the role model of In­dia.”

Union min­is­ter Nitin Gad­kari an­nounced the ap­point­ments af­ter CM Anandiben Pa­tel re­signed ear­lier in the week. Fri­day’s meet­ing to choose her suc­ces­sor was at­tended by party MLAs and Shah.

Ru­pani, seen as close to BJP pres­i­dent Amit Shah, is the BJP’s state pres­i­dent as well as the trans­port and wa­ter sup­ply min­is­ter. Pa­tel was the health min­is­ter. Born in Ran­goon (now Yan­gon, in Myan­mar) to Ram­niklal Ru­pani in 1956, Ru­pani grew up in Ra­jkot where he joined RSS as a school boy. He pur­sued BA and then LLB. The BJP has been in power in Gu­jarat for two decades but the past two years have seen the party’s for­tunes slide in PM Naren­dra Modi’s home state.

Sus­pected Bodo rebels killed 13 peo­ple at a crowded mar­ket­place in As­sam’s Kokra­jhar district on Fri­day, po­lice said, po­ten­tially throw­ing up the first ma­jor mil­i­tancy-re­lated chal­lenge for the new BJP-led gov­ern­ment in the north­east­ern state.

Six­teen peo­ple were also in­jured in the at­tack at Bala­jan Tiniali, nearly 220 km west of Guwa­hati.

Po­lice said the two mil­i­tants sus­pected to be from a break­away fac­tion of the Na­tional Demo­cratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) ar­rived at the spot on an au­torick­shaw along with civil­ian pas­sen­gers.

One of the mil­i­tants was shot dead by se­cu­rity forces who re­sponded within min­utes to the at­tack. The other man­aged to es­cape in the melee.

“The style of op­er­a­tion also points to NDFB-Song­bi­jit. We have launched counter-op­er­a­tions to nab the mil­i­tant(s). Sit­u­a­tion in the area is un­der con­trol,” said As­sam di­rec­tor gen­eral of po­lice Mukesh Sa­hay from Kokra­jhar.

The out­fit, how­ever, de­nied its in­volve­ment in the in­ci­dent. In a state­ment is­sued in Kokra­jhar, NDFB-S ‘gen­eral sec­re­tary’ BR Ferenga also con­demned the po­lice for “tar­nish­ing” its im­age. HT could not ver­ify the au­then­tic­ity of the state­ment.

AJIT SOLANKI/HT

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