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Anandiben Patel Bows Out As Gujarat Chief Minister; BJP Chief Amit Shah To Pick Her Successor
Gujarat Chief Minister Anandiben Patel on Wednesday submitted her resignation to Governor O P Kohli hours after the BJP Parliamentary Board accepted her offer to quit and authorised party president Amit Shah to pick her successor to lead the party in 2017 polls
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Anandiben, who will turn 75 this November, handed over the resignation letter to Kohli in the presence of ministers and party leaders at Raj Bhavan in the evening. Kohli has asked her to continue until the new cheif minister takes charge.
"Anandiben has submitted her resignation to the governor," state unit BJP president Vijay Rupani told reporters after coming out of Raj Bhavan.
Earlier in the day, the BJP Parliamentary Board which met in Delhi authorised Shah to pick Anandiben's successor after accepting her offer to resign.
The meeting of the Parliamentary Board, which was chaired by Shah and attended by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, appointed Union Minister Nitin Gadkari and BJP general secretary Saroj Pandey as party's central observers to hold consultations with the MLAs for electing the new leader.
Shah will be travelling to Gujarat tomorrow where he will hold consultations with party leaders and attend the Legislature Party meeting, likely to be held on Friday to elect the new leader.
Though her departure was anticipated, the first woman chief minister of Gujarat had offered to step down on Monday ostensibly due to her age, as she is turning 75 soon.
Meanwhile, the political circles are abuzz with the likey choice of her replacement.
According to leaders in BJP, the decision on Anandiben's successor could be taken within the next two days.
"We are yet to decide the time of the Legislature body meeting (to elect new leader) as state Observer Nitin Gadkari is busy. It (meeting) can happen any time after 3 PM tomorrow or even a day after. Our national president Amit Shah will decide it as he is arriving in Ahmedabad on Thursday," said state unit BJP in-charge Dinesh Sharma.
He said the Legislature Party meeting to decide the next CM will be held in the presence of state Observers as per the process.
Parrying a query on likely contenders for CM's post, Sharma said, "A party worker will be chosen as next chief minister."
Interestingly, state unit BJP chief Vijay Rupani whose name is in the reckoning for the post besides others, virtually ruled himself out of the race, saying he would like to work for the party organisation.
"I have told the party leadership that I would like to work for the organisation," Rupani said.
Names of "number two" in state Cabinet and incumbent Health minister Nitin Patel, Union minister Purshottam Rupala and Assembly Speaker Ganpat Vasava, a tribal leader, are still doing the rounds.
Nitin Patel, who is considered to be the front-runner, said, "the party Central leadership will decide on who will be the chief minister."
Anandiben, meanwhile, issued advertisements in newspapers here today listing the works done during her two-year tenure.
BJP had suffered humiliating setback in the civic polls held last year, with the opposition Congress scoring brownie points at the expense of its saffron rival.
In the last two years, the BJP also antagonised its loyal vote bank of Patidars who have been demanding OBC quota and staged violent protests last year.
Of late, the flogging of Dalits at Una also caused a massive unrest, denting further the party's image.
The BJP, which has been on a winning spree for over last two decades in Modi's home state, seems to have sensed political setback if it continues with Anandiben who took charge in 2014 from her high-profile predecessor.
Prior to 2014, Anandiben had been serving as a minister in the BJP government since 1998.
Announcing her offer to resign on Monday, Anandiben, who will turn 75 on November 21, said the BJP needed a fresh face before the next year's Assembly elections.
"For the last some time there has been a tradition in the party that those who attain the age of 75, voluntarily retire from the post. I will attain the age of 75 in November," Anandiben had said in a Facebook post.
"Two months ago I had requested the party to relieve me from the post and today also through this letter, I request the party to relieve me of the post," she had said.
"I am asking the party to relieve me two months in advance as the new chief minister will require the time to work, when the state is going to face elections in 2017 and an important event like Vibrant Gujarat Summit to be held in January," Anandiben had said.
She had hailed the 75-year threshold as a "good thing which will give a chance to young leaders to come up."