The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Wednesday accepted resignation of 74-year-old Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel , clearing the way for a “young face” to take over the party in a state that is under its rule for last 18 years.
BJP parliamentary board members, who met at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s residence, also authorised party chief Amit Shah to choose Patel’s successor. Shah will travel to Gujarat on Thursday and attend a meeting of the legislature party where MLAs will elect their new leader.
Briefing reporters after the meeting, senior party leader Venkaiah Naidu dismissed speculations that Shah was in line for the top job. “BJP chief Amit Shah is not being considered for the CM’s post, the party needs him at the national level,” Naidu said.
Moreover, Shah would be busy with the assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh early next year and others before general elections in 2019.
The parliamentary board also decided to send observers to Gujarat to hold a meeting of the legislature party to elect a new leader. Sources claim that Shah wants party’s Gujarat unit chief Vijay Rupani to succeed the state’s first woman chief minister.
They say Anandiben has reservation about the proposal, given Rupani’s proximity to Shah whom she considers responsible for her ouster. Health minister Nitin Patel enjoys her backing.
She offered to resign on Monday, a decision seen prompted by mounting pressure over her government’s handling of a string of political protests. In a Facebook post, Anandiben said that she told the BJP leadership about her plan to step down two months ago. She said the party needed a fresh face before next year’s state elections.
She had been under pressure since last year’s protests by the Patidars seeking quotas in colleges and jobs, and more recently, over the public beating of four Dalit men by self-styled cow protection groups. Allegations of irregularities involving her family members have also put the CM on a sticky wicket.
The BJP leadership is likely to factor in the unrest among the Patidars as it chooses Anandiben’s successor in the state that goes to polls in December 2017. Nitin Patel, who served in Modi’s cabinet in the state, enjoys the backing of the community. Rupani, on the other hand, belongs to the Jain community, numerically insignificant in Gujarat, but is a confidante of Shah, who handed over the reins of the state BJP to him.
The final call on choosing her successor would be taken by PM Modi. RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, who will be in Delhi on Friday, will also be consulted.