BJP President Amit Shah Friday threw a curve ball during the legislature meeting held to elect the next Gujarat chief minister by choosing Vijay Rupani to take over Anandiben Patel. Rupani bowed out of the race earlier as Nitin Patel was billed for the top post and an announcement was expected to be made in this regard today evening. Everything changed after Shah met the party MLAs at the BJP headquarters at Shree Kamalam in Ahmedabad. It is unclear what transpired in the meeting, but Gujarat BJP chief Rupani got a belated birthday gift as he turned 61 on Tuesday.
Rupani belongs to the Jain Baniya community and his candidature is being seen as a way to avoid any conflict between the Dalit and Patidar community. By picking a non-OBC face, BJP has chosen a neutral candidate to lead the party into the 2017 state assembly elections as the state struggles to cool down the simmering tensions over the Dalit flogging incident and Patidar quota agitation. Rupani brings the experience and the heft needed to run the state as Nitin Patel was seen as a light weight. He served in Anandiben Patel’s cabinet as minister of transport and water supply and is the incumbent MLA from Rajkot, which is the heart of the Patidar-dominated Saurashtra.
Rupani, who hold an LLB degree, is also loved by the Sangh as he began his political career by playing an active role in the RSS student wing and the ABVP. And he is the only cabinet leader who was jailed during the emergency. Rupani is also a former member of the Rajya Sabha. He was made the state unit chief in February and enjoys the backing of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party president Amit Shah. He is married and has a daughter and son.