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
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.