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Election Watch | Saurashtra, factionalism in BJP: Why Vijay Rupani is out of Gujarat

While some claim it has to do with ex-CM’s feud with CR Paatil, others say party wanted to give Vajubhai Vala a free hand in Saurashtra.

Vijay Rupani (Express Photo by Javed Raja)

Replaced as Gujarat chief minister last September, Vijay Rupani was appointed the BJP’s prabhari (in-charge) for Punjab and Chandigarh on September 9. With this, Rupani is now out of the state that he once helmed, that too ahead of the coming Assembly elections.

This has raised questions about Rupani’s future in Gujarat politics, with some BJP leaders speculating that the party took the decision to prevent factionalism in the state unit from damaging its electoral prospects. Rupani, who is not likely to get a ticket this time, and state BJP president CR Paatil are known for not getting along with each other.

Almost a year ago, on September 11, Rupani resigned as CM following instructions from the party’s top leadership. In its aftermath, the entire government was replaced by a brand-new administration led by Bhupendra Patel. Barring a couple, the rest in the current administration are first-time ministers. Though the BJP’s top brass announced the decision, it was executed under Paatil’s watch.

“It is quite known that there has been bad blood between Rupani and Paatil after the latter was removed from the post of chief minister and ministers in his Cabinet were not given chance in the new government,” said a Gujarat BJP functionary. “Now, when it is facing the all-important Assembly elections and an aggressive Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the BJP will not like to have any major factionalism in its Gujarat unit. Rupani’s appointment looks like a step to stop any damage to the party due to factionalism, especially in the Saurashtra region.”

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A senior BJP office-bearer agreed that the decision was possibly linked to the leadership’s wish to avoid factional feuds in Saurashtra, but added that it was not Paatil but former finance minister Vajubhai Vala with whom Rupani did not get along well and that was why the former CM was moved out of Gujarat. Like Rupani, Vala is also from Rajkot and has served as a governor of Karnataka.

The 85-year-old Vala, who is back home in Rajkot, had vacated his Rajkot-2 Assembly seat in 2001 for then chief minister Narendra Modi’s first election. Following delimitation, that seat, now Rajkot (West), is represented by Rupani.

“There could have been some bad blood between Rupani and Paatil in the initial days after the government was replaced,” said the senior party functionary. “Currently, it does not seem that the two leaders are on bad terms. I think the move (Rupani’s latest appointment) is part of the party’s preparations for the Assembly elections, especially in Saurashtra. It seems that the party wants to utilise the services of Vajubhai Vala to the fullest in Saurashtra. It is known (within party circles) that Vala and Rupani do not see eye to eye. So, this move could be seen from a perspective that the party high command wants to informally give Vala full control and a clear field (without any adversary) to function.”

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Another senior party leader said Rupani could be looking at a return to the Rajya Sabha. “This appointment of Rupani to Punjab is an indication that he is all set to get a party ticket to the Rajya Sabha soon. Rajya Sabha elections in Gujarat are due in 2023 and there is every possibility that Rupani will get elected to the Rajya Sabha and will be gradually taken to national politics.”

Since stepping down as CM, Rupani has been part of the Gujarat BJP’s core committee and parliamentary board but did not have any other major responsibility. A party leader said, “Rupani should be happy that the party has given him some responsibility eventually. After his removal as Gujarat CM, he stayed without any significant role for close to one year. The latest appointment seems to have been taken after Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Gujarat last month and also attended a meeting of the core committee.”

First published on: 12-09-2022 at 04:29:25 pm
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