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Why BJP decided to remove Vijay Rupani as Gujarat CM 15 months ahead of assembly polls?

Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya, deputy chief minister in Rupani government, Nitin Patel, Lieutenant Governor of Lakshadweep, Praful Khoda Patel and BJP MP from Gujarat, Parshottam Rupala are among those in fray to replace Rupani.

September 12, 2021 / 07:45 AM IST
File image of Gujarat CM Vijay Rupani

File image of Gujarat CM Vijay Rupani


The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is likely to appoint Gujarat's outgoing chief minister Vijay Rupani's replacement at the legislature party meeting to be held on September 12.

Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya, deputy chief minister in Rupani government, Nitin Patel, Lieutenant Governor (L-G) of Lakshadweep, Praful Khoda Patel and BJP MP from Gujarat, Parshottam Rupala are among those in fray to replace Rupani, sources said.

Mandaviya, born in Gujarat's Bhavnagar, was at the BJP office in Gandhinagar along with Nitin Patel.

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Rupani’s resignation, fifteen months ahead of assembly polls, did not come all of a sudden. The BJP, sources said, was contemplating a change of guard in Gujarat ahead of polls considering the criticism Rupani's government faced, especially  regarding the COVID-19 management. Party’s Gujarat in-charge Bhupender Yadav and general secretary BL Santhosh had been holding review meetings regarding Gujarat for quite some time now.

READ: Vijay Rupani eased out as BJP continues with governance reset, acknowledges ground feedback

There were reports of Rupani, 65, running a feud with Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel as well which resulted in many leaders complaining against him to the party leadership in Delhi.

Rupani, who took over as Gujarat's chief minister in August 2016 replacing Anandiben Patel, became the second BJP chief minister in Gujarat after Narendra Modi to complete five years in office on August 7. The state government marked Rupani’s five years in office with programmes held over a nine-day period. Modi was Gujarat's chief minister for 13 years before taking over as prime minister on May 26, 2014.

In the 2017 polls, Rupani, after having survived the incumbency factor and a violent quota stir by the Patidars, returned to power with BJP winning 99 seats in the 182-member assembly. The Congress had managed to win 77 seats in what many called a stiff fight.

Also, read: Gujarat| Vijay Rupani's soft-spoken image may have been his undoing, say observers

Rupani managed to survive to become the second-longest serving Chief Minister of Gujarat because of his low-key style of functioning, according to some political observers. Other observers, however, feel that his soft-spoken nature may also have contributed to his image of being a weak chief minister allowing bureaucrats to overrule the political leadership.

Hours before Rupani’s resignation on September 10, he and his deputy Patel were present at the function in which Prime Minister Narendra Modi virtually inaugurated ‘Sardardham’, a 200 crore building in Ahmedabad touted as the one-stop business, social and educational hub for the Patidar community.

Last month, BJP's state president CR Paatil said the party will contest the next year’s Assembly elections under Rupani's leadership.

Rupani is the fourth BJP chief minister to resign since March. He resigned as the party leadership was not happy with him, according to the sources. The resignation, and the smooth transition that is likely to follow, is part of the ruling party’s strategy to sort out resentments before it is too late. It is, in fact, this strategy that BJP adopted in Karnataka and Uttarakhand, where chief ministers were replaced in recent months.

Also, read: Newsmaker: Mansukh Mandaviya in full action mode at Health Ministry

Basavaraj Bommai, for instance, replaced BS Yediyurappa as Karnataka chief minister in July following resentment against him and his son. In the same month, Uttarakhand chief minister Tirath Singh Rawat quit four months after replacing Trivendra Rawat, who also faced resentment within the party.

“This is clearly a move to have a new leader at the helm, like in Uttarakhand, ahead of assembly polls. BJP wants to counter the anti-incumbency in the state where it has been in power for more than 20 years," said a BJP leader who did not want to be named. Considered a BJP citadel, Gujarat has remained under the saffron party's rule since 1998.

Rupani’s resignation elicited reactions from the Opposition.

"If the BJP is claiming that their government has performed well over the past four years, what was the need for an overnight change in leadership," Congress' Gujarat working president Hardik Patel told a news channel.

Independent MLA Jignesh Mevani said the resignation comes purely to take care of electoral arithmetic keeping 2022 assembly polls in mind.

Born in Rangoon (now Yangon, Myanmar) Rupani joined the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) as a schoolboy, before graduating to the BJP via the Sangh's students wing, the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), according to a PTI report.

Before he became the chief minister for the first time in 2016, Rupani worked mostly in the party organisation in Gujarat, and fought his first Assembly election in 2014, winning a by-poll from Rajkot West. A bachelor of law, Rupani was a Rajya Sabha member between 2006 and 2012.

(With agency inputs)
Gulam Jeelani is a journalist with over 11 years of reporting experience. Based in New Delhi, he covers politics and governance for Moneycontrol.

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