Vijay Rupani, a confidante of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) chief Amit Shah, will be the Gujarat chief minister for a second term, with the state BJP legislature party on Friday unanimously electing him as its leader.
The announcement was made in a meeting conducted by elected BJP candidates following the party's win in the Gujarat Assembly elections, under the chairmanship of Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and BJP general secretary Saroj Pandey.
Earlier, it was announced that Jaitley and Pandey, would hold consultations with the MLAs before the new chief minister is announced.
"It has been unanimously decided in the meeting that Vijay Rupani will be the Legislature party leader and Nitin Bhai Patel will be the deputy Legislature party leader," Jaitley said while making the announcement.
Explaining how the final decision was made, Jaitley said that as Central Observers, they called upon elected MLAs to propose a name. "Bhupendra Singh proposed these two names for the leader and Deputy leader, it was supported by 5 other MLAs who came to the dais and supported them. This was then put to the house which they unanimously accepted. I also asked the members if anybody had any alternative proposal, and since there was none, the two were declared as unanimously elected," Jaitley said.
Though the BJP retained power in the key western state for a record sixth straight term, there was speculation about Rupani’s continuance due to the party’s narrow victory over challenger Congress. The BJP won 99 seats in the 182-member assembly, the first time its tally slipped below hundred since 1995, while the Congress clocked its best in many years clinching 77.
Together with its allies, the Congress has the backing of 80 MLAs. Rupani’s proximity to the top party leadership, his clean and caste neutral image apparently tilted the scales in his favour.
Asked why was there the suspense over who would be the next chief minister, Jaitley said, it was a media creation. He said Rupani will hold consultations with elected MLAs before forming the new government. Rupani who won by a margin of over 50,000 votes from the Rajkot West seat, will meet governor O.P. Kohli and finalise the date for the swearing-in.
A visibly happy Rupani-Patel duo said that they would continue to work together to ensure overall development of Gujarat. Rupani added that while the seat tally had fallen (BJP bagged 99 seats in the 182-member Assembly, its lowest tally in the last two decades), the Gujarati citizens' had given a clear mandate in favour of the BJP.
"We would develop Gujarat as the role model as far as development (vikas) was considered," said Rupani adding that Patel's experience as an able administrator and politician would come in very handy in running the state administration.
Rupani is largely hailed as a caste-neutral candidate here as he hails from the Jain community (which comprise 5 per cent of the state's population) and is seen as a close confidante of Amit Shah. The BJP did well in the Rupani's home constituency- winning six out of eight seats, factors that strengthened his claim for the CM's post.