By offering to quit almost one-and-a-half years before her tenure ends, Anandiben Patel has become just another name in a long list of Gujarat’s Patidar chief ministers who failed to serve their full term.
As was the case with her predecessors – Chimanbhai Patel, Babubhai Patel and Keshubhai Patel – Anandiben’s premature exit plan has forced the BJP to look for a face that fulfils its caste equations. In view of the ongoing agitations, the party may go for a Patel (accounting for 14% of six crore Gujaratis) or a Dalit (7% of the total population). Alternatively, it may elevate somebody from a third caste with either a Patel or a Dalit as the deputy CM.
The third option could lead to Vijay Rupani, who holds dual responsibility of cabinet minister and state president, becoming the chief minister. Being a member of the minority Jain community, he can be seen as a neutral leader at a time when both the Patidars and Dalits are up in arms against the government. What’s more, he belongs to Saurashtra – the nerve centre of the agitation.
If the party decides on having a chief minister from the Patidar community again, health minister Nitin Patel and former party president Purshottam Rupala are most likely to bag the post. Both belong to the disgruntled Kadva Patidar community.
Though 60-year-old Nitin is seen as a non-controversial face, he doesn’t enjoy any clout either among the people or party cadre. Rupala was considered a strong alternative to Anandiben when Modi was searching for a successor in Gujarat. Now that she’s packing, the 62-year-old stands a good chance of taking over.
RSS man Bhikhu Dalsania is a senior Leuva Patel leader who has a firm grip over the cadre, but not being a people’s leader could go against him.
There, however, is always a chance that the BJP may go for somebody from the lower caste. In that case, social justice and welfare minister Ramanlal Vora or tribal leader Ganpat Vasava are the most likely to land the job.