Vijay Rupani, a devoted RSS member since his school days, who keeps a low profile and is known for hard work, on Sunday succeeded Anandiben Patel as the Chief Minister of the high-profile Gujarat state. Compared to other contenders for the post, what apparently weighed in favour of the 60-year-old first time MLA, among other things, is his closeness to BJP chief Amit Shah.
His elevation to the top post is also seen as a recognition of his Jain community, which was recently accorded minority status by the state government. Rupani, who wields considerable influence in Saurashtra, a politically significant part of Gujarat, celebrated his birthday on August 2 with his wife and son at their house in Rajkot, his native town.
Born in Rangoon (now Yangon, in Myanmar) to Ramniklal Rupani in 1956, he grew up in Rajkot where he joined RSS as a school boy. He pursued BA and then LLB. As the chairman of the state tourism corporation, he headed “Khushbu Gujarat Ki” campaign to popularise the state as a tourist destination.
As a Rajya Sabha member from 2006-12, he was part of various parliamentary committees on water resources, food, public distribution, public undertaking, among others. He was appointed as the chairman of the Gujarat Municipal Finance Board in 2013. In October 2014, he won the Assembly bypolls from Rajkot West with a good margin after sitting MLA Vajubhai Vala resigned following his appointment as the Governor of Karnataka.
On February 19, Rupani became the state BJP chief, replacing R C Faldu. It was seen as a victory for the Amit Shah faction in the party’s state unit. Rupani, who served as the Transport Minister in Anandiben Patel’s Cabinet cut his teeth into politics in his college days when he joined ABVP, and got involved in the students struggle committee during the Navnirman Andolan of the 1970s.
He was among the first to join the students’ agitation on the call given by Jayprakash Narayan and also spent nearly one year in Bhuj and Bhavnagar jails during the Emergency. Rupani was elected as Rajkot civic body corporator for the first time in 1987, and was later appointed as the president of the city’s BJP unit.
Between 1988 and 1996, he served as the chairman of the Standing Committee of Rajkot Corporation and in 1996-97, he became the Mayor. He is also recognised for his efforts to develop Rajkot as an industry center in Saurashtra region. Rupani has the distinction of serving as the state BJP’s general secretary four times on the trot. He was also the party spokesperson at the state level.