A YEAR after he stepped down as Chief Minister of Gujarat, Vijay Rupani has said he was asked to resign only the previous night by the BJP “high command”.
In an interview to The Indian Express, Rupani, who stepped down on September 11, 2021, said, “Aagla divasey ratre j kidhu ane mein bije divesey aapi j didhu (They told me the previous night and I submitted it (resignation) the very next day).”
“I didn’t ask them the reason and, therefore, they didn’t give me one. Had I asked, I am sure they would have given me the reason. But I have always been a disciplined worker of the party. I have always done what the party has asked me to do. The party made me Chief Minister, so I became one. Then the party told me that they are replacing me and I told them to do it happily.”
He said hours after receiving instructions from his party, he submitted his resignation to Gujarat Governor Acharya Devvrat on September 21, without any protest or tantrum.
“As a good worker, I have never gone against the party line and, therefore, tendered my resignation the very next day. And I submitted my resignation with a smiling face, not a sulking one,” he said.
The BJP veteran, who has been in public life for 49 years and has risen through the ranks after joining the party’s student wing in 1973, received an emotional reception by BJP workers and supporters in Rajkot when he returned to his hometown after making way for Bhupendra Patel as Chief Minister.
In Rajkot, he had told supporters that he had resigned “without any hesitation” and that “only workers from Rajkot can do that”.
He maintains that the party leadership’s decision is supreme. “Even after one completes one’s tenure, the next CM is decided by the high command only. The legislature party meeting is merely a procedure and it should be that way only as such decisions impact the entire party, be it Congress or BJP.”
“The CM candidate is decided by the party high command even after a general election. The high command directs the legislature party to elect the one chosen by it as the leader,” he said.
He said the high command’s decisions will have to be “treated as democratic”, otherwise there may be a situation in which every MLA starts considering himself a contender for the CM’s post and that may eventually lead to groupism.
“This will have to be treated as democratic as, eventually, someone will have to decide who that leader will be. A situation wherein everyone considers himself a contender for the CM’s post is not desirable. Such a scenario may lead to groupism. So, the high command’s decision is always the final decision,” he said.
Exactly a year after removing him from the top post in Gujarat, the BJP appointed Rupani as its in-charge for Punjab. He considers the new assignment as his elevation to national politics, a natural progression in his political career, having held all top posts at the state level.
“I consider myself lucky that the party assigned me work first at the city level, then at the regional level and I worked accordingly. Going forward, I was assigned responsibility to serve as general secretary at the state level for four terms and eventually as Chief Minister. Now, I have been assigned a role at the national level… At the state level, the top post is of the Chief Minister. I have also served as pradesh pramukh (president of the party’s state unit). Therefore, it is natural that my services now be used at the national level,” he said.
He sees his appointment as the party’s in-charge for Punjab as an opportunity to prove himself one more time.
“This is an opportunity given by God. I got to work at all levels. Secondly, Punjab is a weak state from the viewpoint of the Bharatiya Janata Party. When the party has given me the responsibility, it must be expecting that I go there and work hard and get results. The party has reposed faith in me. This means a lot to me. I view this as a challenge and an opportunity to prove my strength,” he said.
Rupani also said he will take keen interest in the Assembly elections in Gujarat later this year and ensure that the “BJP wins with a two-thirds majority”.
He said his attempt will be to make the BJP a strong Opposition in Punjab over the next five years, and by encashing the leadership and popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, win power in that state in 2027.
“I never asked for anything in the past and yet the party gave me everything… I am committed to do in future whatever the party asks me to do. I am looking at a bright future – of India, BJP and mine,” he said.