Jain leader Vijay Rupani to take over
BJP names Nitin Patel deputy CM to woo back the Patels
AHMEDABAD: 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 handedisgreatandwearethankful for this,” Rupani said after being named the chief minister. “(I) will putinalltheeffortstomakeGujarat
the role model of India.”
Union minister Nitin Gadkari announcedtheappointmentsafter CM Anandiben Patel resigned earlier in the week. Friday’s meeting to choose her successor was attendedbypartyMLAsandShah.
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 pursuedBAandthenLLB.TheBJP has been in power in Gujarat for two decades but the past two years haveseentheparty’sfortunesslide inPMNarendraModi’shomestate.
Outgoing Guj CM Anandiben Patel (right) greets Vijay Rupani in Gandhinagar.