Role chalked out for next Gujarat CM: Consolidate BJP vote bank ahead of Assembly election

A announcement on the successor of Anandiben Patel is likely on Friday. BJP president Amit Shah flew down to Ahmedabad on Thursday and held meetings with party members to zero in on the next Gujarat Chief Minister. While state BJP president Vijay Rupani, Cabinet minister Parshottam Rupala and state minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama had emerged as top contenders for the post of Gujarat CM, it is Nitin Patel, the senior-most minister in the Anandiben Patel Cabinet, who is leading the race.

Ahead of the Gujarat BJP legislature party meet, Nitin Patel clarified that the state unit will back whoever is elected as the Gujarat CM.

Another senior leader told IANS: "Nitin Patel is the logical choice. He is the senior most minister, a Patel and from Mehsana in North Gujarat, home district of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah. Choosing the senior-most minister would also neutralise any factional considerations."

Nitin Patel is one of the top contenders for the post of Gujarat chief minister. PTI

Nitin Patel is one of the top contenders for the post of Gujarat chief minister. PTI

Shah, who was considered to be the most ideal candidate for the CM's post, will now have a final say on who will lead Gujarat for the Assembly polls in 2017.  The situation in Gujarat is critical which witnessed one of the biggest Dalit agitation in the recent years following the brutal assault of Dalit youths by self-style cow vigilantes in Gujarat's Una district.

Moreover,  the Gujarat High Court on Thursday rejected the Anandiben Patel government's ordinance to provide 10 percent quota in government jobs and educational institutions to the Economically Backward Classes (EBCs), and termed the quota "unconstitutional".

Reacting to the verdict, Hardik Patel, the face of Patel quota stir, said, "We always maintained that this is a lollipop and now the lollipop has melted. This was unconstitutional and done without following proper process. It was bound to be rejected." He also signaled that the Patels will resume their agitation seeking quota under the OBC category.

In fact, Nitin Patel termed the high court verdict "unfortunate" and said, "We wanted to bring about social equity and now it looks difficult to implement for the current academic year or ongoing government recruitment. The economically weaker sections will be the big loser."

"The decision we took was not on the basis of caste or community but for the poor from across society. Therefore, we felt there was no need for a survey. Unfortunately, the high court has turned down our request."

Patel, however, said the court has granted the state government two weeks to approach the Supreme Court against the order. Just the Assembly election looming ahead, it will be detrimental for the BJP government in Gujarat if the Patidar community once again starts a full-blown agitation. He also told CNN-News 18 that he is likely to meet Hardik Patel to find an amicable solution.

The Patidar quota agitation and the Dalit unrest in the state has beginning to weaken the saffron hold in the state. The Anandiben-led government came under severe criticism for the poor handling of the quota agitation and it's inability to contain Dalit atrocities.

On the Dalit agitation, in an interview with CNN News 18, he said that it is wrong to label BJP as anti-Dalit as the party has most representation of Dalits.

Patels, which form around 14 percent of the state's population have been traditionally BJP supporters. In the Gujarat Assembly, of the 182, there are 44 Patel MLAs and within the state unit, of 120 MLAs, 34 are from the Patel community. It will be the priority of the next Gujarat CM to placate and consolidate this voter base.

After Shah's meeting on Thursday, a senior BJP minister told the Indian Express, “The situation in our party is so serious that we can’t afford to play a high-stakes game of selecting a new face or someone not suitable for our core constituency — which is Patels.”

In selecting the next chief minister, the BJP has make sure that in their effort to appease the Patel community, they don't alienate the non-Patel leaders.

With inputs from agencies

Updated Date: Aug 05, 2016 14:30 PM

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