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Is Vijay Rupani An Interim Chief Minister?

The BJP’s decision for a change of guard in Gujarat was apparently prompted by the strategic move to consolidate its grip over the escalating influence of the pro-Patidar (Patel) movement in the State and salvage its credentials that have suffered a major jolt under the brief stint of Anandiben Patel in the State for charges of rampant corruption

Photo Credit : PTI

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The BJP’s decision for a change of guard in Gujarat was apparently prompted by the strategic move to consolidate its grip over the escalating influence of the pro-Patidar (Patel) movement in the State and salvage its credentials that have suffered a major jolt under the brief stint of Anandiben Patel in the State for charges of rampant corruption. Initially, Nitin Patel was all set to replace Anandiben Patel as the Chief Minister in the State. He belonged to the same Northern region of Gujarat that had borne the maximum impact of the Patidar movement led by Hardik Patel. Nitin Patel was believed to possess major political clout among the Patidar community and unlike Anandiben Patel, he did not succumb to the political pressure that came in the garb of pro-Patidar movement while discharging his duties as a Minister in the erstwhile Anandiben Cabinet.

He was, however, sidestepped in a penultimate move by the central leadership of the BJP. Reason: the multi-pronged strategies to keep options open for further change in the State leadership after the UP elections in 2017 that is to be followed by the Gujarat elections. Contrary to the speculation that the Central leadership of the BJP was interested to rope in Nitin Patel as he belonged to the Patel community and would be able to deal with the escalating influence of the Patidar (Patel) community that has waged a virtual war in the garb of the quota-stir against Narendra Modi’s decades-old political stronghold in Gujarat, the party’s National President, Amit Shah was in favour of a stopgap arrangement to run the Government in the State by proxy. If sources privy to the Central leadership of the BJP are to be believed, Amit Shah was not only instrumental in removing Anandiben Patel, but played an active role to ensure his return to power in the State.

Unlike Nitin Patel, Vijay Rupani -- a first-time MLA -- is believed to be the most trusted aide of Shah and cannot afford to defy the latter’s dictates even he is asked to step down to pave way for Shah for obvious reasons. Rupani enjoys Shah’s patronage not because of the fact that he belongs to the same Jain Community that Shah comes from, but he is obliged to Shah for his elevation to the post of the BJP State President much against the wishes of none other than Narendra Modi. It was Shah who played a key role in persuading Modi to support Rupani’s candidature for the post of the BJP State President. It is believed that Modi was not in favour of the decision to make Rupani the Chief Minister of Gujarat, but his blessings for Nitin Patel was, however, overruled with the strategic intervention of Shah to prop Rupani up as CM – even though an interim one.

Sources claimed that Rupani was likely to be replaced by Shah himself ahead of the Assembly elections- that are due before January 22, 2018- in the State. Shah is supposed to be preoccupied with the UP elections that are due by May 22, 2017. Elections in Gujarat are likely to be followed by the polls in UP.

As per party strategists, none other than Amit Shah has the potential to retain power in Gujarat in the ensuing Assembly elections. But the party can neither afford to go to polls in Uttar Pradesh by dispensing with Shah nor can it retain the confidence of the people in Gujarat by proxy. It is believed that after the elevation of Narendra Modi to Prime Minister and that of Amit Shah to the party’s national president post, Gujarat has been left unattended. The State is badly in need of a charismatic leader like Modi or Shah to hold on to power in the State after the elections.

Although Nitin Patel failed to garner the support of the party leadership to get the plum post of the Chief Minister, he was made Deputy CM, presumably with the ostensible objective to gain the confidence of the Patidar community in particular in the northern region of the State.


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