Two Union Ministers from Gujarat, the controversial administrator of two union territories, Praful Khoda Patel, and state agriculture minister RC Faldu are said to be among the names being considered to replace Vijay Rupani as Gujarat Chief Minister, sources in the BJP told NDTV on Saturday.
According to BJP sources, Mr Rupani’s resignation, though it came as a shock to many, was planned and at the orders of the central leadership. It follows the precedent of the party asking his predecessor Anandiben Patel to quit in 2016, 16 months before elections.
The 65-year-old resigned as Chief Minister on Saturday, over a year ahead of assembly elections in the state, without giving any specific reason. He said the state’s development should carry on under “new leadership” and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “guidance”.
The announcement followed a meeting with BJP’s Gujarat state-in-charge Bhupendra Yadav that was attended by two Union Ministers – Mansukh Mandaviya and Parshottam Rupala – as well as BJP General Secretary BL Santosh.
It was in this meeting that Mr Rupani was informed about the central leadership’s decision that he step down.
BJP sources have said that all options for a new Chief Minister are open and a non-MLA Gujarati may also be considered.
This has fanned speculation that Praful Khoda Patel, administrator of the union territories of Lakshadweep and Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Daman and Diu, is among the top contenders. Praful Patel was in the news recently for his widely-opposed changes to rules in Lakshadweep.
Also reportedly being considered are Parshottam Rupala, the Union Minister of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying and Mansukh Mandaviya, the Union Health Minister. Both of them also belong to the Patel or Patidar community.
The names of Gujarat Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel and state agriculture minister RC Faldu, both from the Patel community, are doing the rounds for those who may be asked to succeed Vijay Rupani as well.
“Names of Patel, Faldu, (Parshottam) Rupala and Mandaviya are being discussed. But it is impossible to say who will be the chief minister as the decision will be taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” a party leader was quoted as saying by news agency PTI.
With elections due next year and recent gains by opposition outfits like the Aam Aadmi Party, the BJP leadership is keen to appease the powerful Patel community who constitute a huge chunk of the state’s votes, sources said.
Leaders of the community have recently stepped up demands that the next Chief Minister, after Mr Rupani who belongs to the Jain community, should be a Patidar.