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Vijay Rupani Remains Gujarat Chief Minister, Nitin Patel His Deputy

New Delhi: Vijay Rupani will continue as chief minister of Gujarat and Nitin Patel as his deputy chief minister, the BJP said today after a meeting of the party’s newly-elected legislators in the state’s capital Gandhinagar, overseen by union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley.

Vijay Rupani is close to party chief Amit Shah who had earlier this year indicated that he and deputy chief minister Nitin Patel would continue in their positions post the assembly elections. Vijay Rupani also has a clean image and is caste neutral, but his chances were seen to diminish after the BJP’s won 99 seats, only seven more than it needed for a majority to form government and 16 less than it had won last time. The party now has 100 in the assembly with an independent MLA Ratansinh Rathod from Lunawada offering support to the party.

The Congress vastly improved its position winning 80 seats after a campaign focused on local development and Vijay Rupani’s critics blame him. But there are those who pointed out that replacing Vijay Rupani would have amounted to an admission that the party has suffered a setback in Gujarat.

After the muted result the party has taken its time to make a decision and there was speculation over other probable candidates for the top post, like union ministers Purshottam Rupala and Mansukh Mandaviya, both prominent Patel or Paatidar leaders from Saurashtra, the region where the BJP lost most heavily.

There was also talk about Deputy Prime Minister Nitin Patel being promoted have he beat the odds and won his election by a slender margin in Mehsana, which was the epicentre of the Patel or Patidar agitation for reservation in government jobs and colleges. Mr Patel being chosen chief minister would have signaled an outreach to the influential Patels, BJP loyalists for years, but a section of which went against the party in this election, angry at not being included among castes that benefit from affirmative action. The party hopes that his being retained as deputy chief minister will send the same message.

Karnataka governor Vajubhai Vala, a seasoned Karadiya Rajput leader from Saurashtra was also about as a dark horse. He is seen as a strong leader from the region, having a considerable clout in various communities as well as acceptable across the party.

The BJP will be counting on Gujarat, the home state of both PM Modi and party chief Amit Shah, to deliver 100 per cent again in the 2019 election. In 2014, the BJP won all 26 parliament seats in Gujarat.

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