Vijay Rupani will tomorrow be sworn in as the Chief Minister of Gujarat, the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, where BJP is grappling with unrest due to the Patel quota stir and attacks on Dalits ahead of the high-stake Assembly elections scheduled next year.
60-year-old Rupani met Governor O P Kohli on Saturday and staked claim to form the government, a day after he was elected by BJP legislators to succeed Anandiben Patel, with the central leadership playing a vital role in the choice.
After the meeting with the Governor, BJP state in-charge Dinesh Sharma said Rupani will take oath tomorrow at 12.40 PM. While Rupani was accompanied by Deputy CM designate Nitin Patel and other state leaders, outgoing Chief Minister Anandiben Patel was conspicous by her absence.
"We have told the Governor that the BJP Legislature party has endorsed the names of Vijay Rupani as new Chief Minister and Nitin Patel as Deputy Chief Minister," Sharma said after the meeting.
"The Governor has given his go ahead for the oath taking ceremony which will be held tomorrow at 12.40 PM," he said.
He, however, evaded a direct reply to a question on Anandiben's absence, saying, "She was present when she resigned. Today those who have been chosen are present."
In a dramatic turnaround the BJP central leadership yesterday decided on Rupani, an Amit Shah loyalist and state party chief, to replace Anandiben as the chief minister, instead of Nitin Patel who was the front-runner till the last moment.
Anandiben had insisted on Nitin Patel as her successor, while Shah stood firm by Rupani. As a compromise formula, Patel was elevated to be Deputy Chief Minister after intervention of the central leadership, including Modi.
Selection of Rupani, who belongs to Jain Baniya community, is being seen as a deft move by the party to avoid the impression of favouring any major segment of the society over others.
While the Patel community has been on a warpath with their demand for OBC quota, the state has witnessed Dalit unrest over the widely condemned Una flogging incident which seems to have dented the image of the government.
Rupani, who came up through the RSS, is being assigned the task of leading BJP in the polls at a time when BJP is struggling to retain its political base. The party has also been affected by the absence of leaders of Modi's calibre in the state.