In a sudden move, Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani resigned Saturday, minutes after he had addressed an event of the Patidar community virtually inaugurated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Later, addressing mediapersons, he said the decision had been taken by the party “in the larger interest of Gujarat”.
Rupani’s resignation came with more than 14 months to go for his second term as CM. Considered an Amit Shah man, he had replaced Anandiben Patel in similar circumstances in August 2016, and celebrated five years of being in power recently.
Amid furious speculation over possible replacements for Rupani — including bitter rival and Deputy CM Nitin Patel — his resignation letter, released by the Chief Minister’s Office, said Modi was the face of the party in Gujarat and the next election would be fought under the PM’s leadership.
Gujarat BJP spokesperson Yamal Vyas said the Central Parliamentary Board of the party “will meet anytime tonight or tomorrow (Sunday) to appoint observers for the process of selection of the new Chief Minister”, and that a meeting of BJP MLAs will be called in a day or two, after which a decision would be taken. He said Union Home Minister Amit Shah might join the meetings as he is an MP from Gujarat.
Apart from Nitin Patel, the names doing the rounds Saturday evening for new CM were BJP Gujarat chief C R Paatil, state vice-president Gordhan Zadafia, Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya and even the administrator of Diu, Daman, Dadra Nagar Haveli and Lakshadweep Praful Patel. Except Paatil, the rest are Patidars, a community that has drifted away from the BJP. In recent days, it has demanded that the next CM of the state be a Patidar.
Paatil though issued a video statement saying he was not in the race to be CM, adding, “But, we will certainly complete our target of winning 182 seats in the Assembly elections in 2022, with the new CM to be decided by the party and Vijay Rupani.”
Rupani usually addresses mediapersons after public functions. But on Saturday, after the event marking the inauguration of Sardardham Bhavan on the outskirts of Ahmedabad, he was among the first to leave. Paatil and Nitin Patel, who were also present, followed minutes later.
Soon after, a closed-door meeting was held at the BJP headquarters, located just a few kilometres away, where national general secretary B L Santhosh, organisation secretary Ratnakar, Union minister and Gujarat party in-charge Bhupender Yadav and Paatil were present.
After submitting his resignation to Governor Acharya Devvrat, Rupani told mediapersons: “This is a relay race, everybody runs and goes ahead. I had the responsibility for five years, I was running. Now, I will give the flag to someone else. (Now) He will run… With my resignation, the party’s new leadership will get an opportunity. And we will all take Gujarat to new heights under the leadership of PM Narendra Modi.”
On the reason behind his resignation, Rupani said: “It is a natural process in our party. The party worker gets different responsibilities at different times. We do not call it a post, we call it a responsibility. Now, I will shoulder whatever responsibility the party gives me.”
Rupani’s official resignation letter said, “I believe that now Gujarat’s journey of development should continue under a new leader with a new enthusiasm and new energy, under the leadership of the Prime Minister.”
Rupani also thanked Amit Shah and BJP president J P Nadda. “I got an opportunity to learn and understand new experiences in administration from former BJP national president and Union minister Amit Shah and his cooperation and assistance in the workings of the party.”
As recently as August 15, addressing mediapersons after the Independence Day flag-hoisting at the party headquarters, C R Paatil had said the 2022 state elections would be fought under the leadership of Rupani and Nitin Patel.
However, Paatil was also seen to have put Rupani on the spot on several occasions, having asked ministers to hear out people’s grievances at the BJP headquarters, which was seen as stepping on the CM’s toes, and organising distribution of Remdesivir in his constituency at a time when the state was battling to arrange the drug at the height of Covid.
Rupani’s resignation letter conspicuously made no mention of Paatil.
Zadafia, said to be one of the CM contenders, indicated to The Sunday Express that the decision “by the party high command” was sudden. “Nothing was discussed (on it) at the party executive meeting in Kevadia (held September 1-3). This is today’s development.”
Asked whether he could be the new CM, Zadafia said: “I am a worker and would like to remain a worker.”
At the event that would prove to be his last as CM, Rupani shared a front-row seat with Union Minister for Fisheries and Animal Husbandry Parshottam Rupala and Gagji Sutaria, the president of the Vishwa Patidar Samaj. In his speech, Rupani announced relaxations regarding land utilisation for future projects of the Patidar community.
Having taken over as CM from Anandiben Patel, Rupani had led the BJP to victory in the 2017 Assembly polls. However, the party had got only 99 seats (out of 182) — its lowest tally since it came to power in Gujarat in 1995.
With inputs from Avinash Nair