The comfortable win at the Centre has only made the decision for appointing Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s successor in Gujarat a bit more difficult for the BJP top brass. Anandi Patel, 74, the second-most important minister, holding the
portfolios of revenue, urban development, roads and building, is being perceived as the chosen one, though there is many a slip between the cup and the lip, say BJP insiders.
Dressed in a bright pink saree and saffron blouse, Patel was received by jubilant supporters at Shree Kamalam, the BJP’s swanky headquarters in Gandhinagar on Friday afternoon. One of the frontrunners for the top job in Gujarat, Patel, a former school teacher, has been Modi’s closest confidante since his RSS days.
However, the task is now not only to keep the BJP flock in Gujarat together, but also to take the progressive image of the state, which Modi projected to power his countrywide win, forward. The BJP parliamentary board is expected to announce Gujarat’s new chief minister on Saturday in Delhi. What the party will have to factor in now is its turnaround win in Uttar Pradesh, which has raised chances of Patel’s sworn rival, Amit Shah to have a say in Gujarat’s affairs, say BJP sources.
The overwhelming countrywide results and thumping majority in UP has solidified the position of UP in-charge and Modi’s other close confidante Amit Shah,” says a party leader on condition of anonymity. Shah is being solely credited for BJP’s win in UP, where he was appointed general secretary in-charge. Both Shah and Patel are close to Modi and his strongest pillars, and Modi has managed to keep them at a safe distance from each other. While Shah is the master strategist, who had been ensuring a victory for BJP patriarch L K Advani all these years, this time the job was given to Patel. Though Patel has been hailed as a good administrator, just like Modi, she does not find complete acceptance within the party and this, besides her age, are the few things going against her.
The other contender is the comparatively affable energy and industry minister Saurabh Patel, who is also a largely acceptable leader within the party. However, he has withdrawn from the chief minister’s race, leading to the possibility of finance minister Nitin Patel, the official number two in the Gujarat government.
A BJP leader said, “Modi has kept his cards close to his chest. So no one name will emerge strongly, till the formal announcement.” About Shah, BJP leaders say, “Shah will seek a bigger role now. If not an appropriate post in Delhi, an eleventh hour change that puts him in the race for Gujarat CM, cannot be ruled out. However, the biggest hurdle is
the charges he faces in the fake encounter cases and his role in the alleged snooping controversy, during his stint as minister of state forhome in Gujarat. However, the name of tribal leader Ganpat Vasava has also started doing the rounds from Wednesday, when Modi attended the Gujarat cabinet meeting for the last time.
Gujarat BJP president Ranchoddas Faldu is also being seen as a dark horse,but senior party members concede that finally it is a race between Anandi Patel, Nitin Patel and Amit Shah.