The BJP wants to signal that the party is unaffected by fall in numbers

Rohit Chandavakar
Friday, 22 December 2017

BJP has decided to continue with the same faces that headed the government in Gujarat before 2017 assembly polls. Many see this as the party’s attempt to exhibit its iron fist to dissidents and detractors who were under the impression that a setback in recent polls will result in a change of leadership in Ahmedabad.

BJP has decided to continue with the same faces that headed the government in Gujarat before 2017 assembly polls. Many see this as the party’s attempt to exhibit its iron fist to dissidents and detractors who were under the impression that a setback in recent polls will result in a change of leadership in Ahmedabad.

There was a lot of speculation on about who will be chosen by the BJP leadership as Gujarat Chief Minister since the last three or four days. After the dramatic process of assembly elections ended and it became clear that BJP will form the next government in the state, it was speculated that perhaps some leader from Delhi will be brought in to head the state government as well as the BJP in Gujarat as the general perception was that Rupani headed a regime that was increasingly becoming unpopular in the state. 

The BJP’s tally in Gujarat assembly came from 115 (won in assembly polls of 2012) down to 99 (won this time) which is a considerable drop for any party.   

But the BJP has finally decided to go with the same faces again in Gujarat. Vijay Rupani will be the Chief Minister and Nitin Patel will continue as the Deputy CM. This clearly signifies that the party wants to send a message to the world that it has not been shaken by the drop in numbers in the assembly. Finance Minister and BJP leader Arun Jaitley headed to state capital Gandhinagar to oversee a meeting of the BJP’s newly-elected legislators. The legislators formally elected the state’s next chief minister at the meeting being held on Friday. 

The party could perhaps choose to appoint a second deputy chief minister as it did in Uttar Pradesh earlier this year according to some. Former Gujarat Speaker Ganapath Vasavya, a tribal leader, is seen as a frontrunner if the party opts for two deputies to the chief minister.

Vijay Rupani is considered to be close to BJP Chief Amit Shah who had earlier this year indicated that he and Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel will continue in their positions post the 
assembly elections. 

Vijay Rupani also has a clean image and is caste-neutral, but his chances were seen to diminish after the BJP won 99 seats, only seven more than it needed for a majority to form government and 16 less than it had won last time. 

The party now has 100 seats in the assembly with independent MLA Ratansinh Rathod from Lunawada offering support to the party.

The Congress vastly improved its position winning 80 seats after a campaign focused on local development and Vijay Rupani’s critics blame him. But there are those who have pointed out that replacing Rupani will amount to an admission that the party has suffered a setback in Gujarat. 

After the muted result, the party has taken its time to make a decision and there has been speculation over other candidates like Union ministers Purshottam Rupala and Mansukh Mandaviya, both prominent Patel or Patidar leaders from Saurashtra, the region where the Bharatiya Janata Party lost most heavily. 

There have also been talks about Nitin Patel being promoted has he beat the odds and won his election by a slender margin in Mehsana, which was the epicentre of the Patel or Patidar agitation for reservation in government jobs and colleges.
Patel being chosen deputy chief minister is a clear signal and an outreach to the influential Patels, BJP loyalists for years, but a section of which went against the party in this election, angry at not being included among castes that benefit from affirmative action.

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