The BJP on Friday appointed state’s water supply and transport minister Vijay Rupani as the new president of the Gujarat unit.
The appointment comes a couple of months after the party suffered drubbing in the panchayat elections.
Sixty-four-year-old Rupani, who replaced Leuva Patel leader Ranchoddas Faldu, faces the challenge of leading the party in the 2017 assembly elections by infusing new life into the cadre, which is yet to recover from local body poll debacle.
An RSS worker for 48 years, Rupani is believed to be close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and national BJP chief Amit Shah. This leader from Saurashtra peninsula is also a close confidant of chief minister Anandiben Patel. This made him the obvious choice to lead the Gujarat unit, which is rumoured to be factionalised between two power centres – Shah and Patel.
Growing differences between the leaders was also cited as a reason by party leaders for the delay in the president’s appointment, which was supposed to happen by mid-January.
At a time when the BJP is finding it hard to keep its two vital vote banks - Patidars and OBCs – intact, in Rupani they have chosen a Jain leader who has a strong grip over organisation, especially in Saurashtra.
The MLA from Rajkot West is from the Jain community. Belongin to a neutral caste, the party is expects the former Rajya Sabha member to pacify various agitating communities. While the Patidars have launched an agitation for OBC status, other OBC communities have launched counter-agitation.
In his first-ever speech, addressing party cadre, Rupani raised the JNU issue: “Shivaji had defeated Afzal Khal. Now, there is a Afzal, who has been called guru by the Congress. We need to save the culture of India.”