Jain leader Vi­jay Ru­pani to take over

BJP names Nitin Pa­tel deputy CM to woo back the Pa­tels

Hindustan Times ST (Mumbai) - Live - - FRONT PAGE - Hi­ral Dave

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.

AJIT SOLANKI/HT

Out­go­ing Guj CM Anandiben Pa­tel (right) greets Vi­jay Ru­pani in Gand­hi­na­gar.

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