Political pundits are struggling to answer that question, assigning a range of probabilities to several potential successors, after Rupani’s surprise exit Saturday 15 months ahead of the scheduled balloting to elect the next Gujarat assembly.
Potential successors include Union ministers Parshottam Rupala and Mansukh Mandavia, administrator of Daman and Diu Praful Patel, deputy chief minister Nitin Patel, BJP Gujarat president CR Patil, and vice president Gordhan Zadaphiya.
While the party MLAs have been summoned to Gandhinagar on Sunday, Union Home Minister Amit Shah is expected to reach Ahmedabad late Saturday. A formal announcement on Rupani’s successor is likely on Sunday.
Meanwhile Gujarat BJP President CR Patil issued a video statement on Twitter saying that while his name too is doing rounds in the media as a probable contender for the Chief Minister’s position, he is not in any such race and would work with anyone decided by the party high command to ensure 182 seats victory in 2022 assembly elections. It may be remembered that during the resignation of Anandiben Patel, the then BJP Gujarat President Vijay Rupani had issued a media bite saying he is happy being the party president and enjoying working for the organization, which is his area of interest
Sources within the BJP maintain that with Rupani as chief minister and Patil as president of the local party unit, the usual structure of a
on either of the posts was disturbed. Given the importance of the Patidar community in Gujarat politics, BJP couldn’t risk its luck in the crucial 2022 assembly elections in the home state of the Prime Minister and Home Minister.
The impact of the second Covid wave and successive observations of the Gujarat High Court on the state government’s management of the pandemic have only enhanced challenges for the party that has been in power in Gujarat for three decades.
“Given this scenario, one can expect a strong Patidar leader with some serious administrative experience to be made the chief minister now,” said a top source, who declined to be named. “Otherwise, the entire exercise of changing the chief minister will have little impact on the ground.”
Rupani was himself a surprise choice after Anandi Patel resigned on August 3, 2016, in the aftermath of the Patidar agitations in 2015.
Nitin Patel was expected to succeed her but the BJP’s central leadership backed Rupani in a move that broke away from the traditional script in power balancing.
To be sure, Rupani’s resignation on Saturday came as a shock as there were no indications of a leadership reshuffle.