Anandi Patel, 74, the second most important minister holding revenue, urban development, roads and building portfolios, is widely perceived as the chosen one, though there is no final word, say BJP insiders. Dressed in a bright pink saree and saffron blouse, Patel was received by jubiliant supporters at Shree Kamalam, the BJP’s swanky headquarter in Gandhinagar Friday afternoon. Patel, a former school teacher, has been Modi’s closest confidant since his RSS days.
But the task now is not only to keep the BJP flock in Gujarat together but also take forward the state’s progressive image that Modi propagated to power his win.
The BJP parliamentary board is expected to announce the new chief minister in Delhi Saturday. What the party will have to factor in now is its turnaround win in Uttar Pradesh, that has raised chances of Patel’s sworn rival Amit Shah having a say in Gujarat affairs. “The overwhelming results, and the thumping majority in UP has consolidated Shah’s position”, says a party leader. 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. Though Patel has been hailed as a good administrator, she does not find complete acceptance within the party, which, besides her age, are 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. But he has withdrawn from the race, making the prospects of finance minister Nitin Patel, the official number two in the Gujarat government, brighter.
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, a BJP leader said, “He 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.
Other names doing the rounds are that of tribal leader Ganpat Vasava and state BJP chief Ranchoddas Faldu.