Vijay Rupani sworn in: BJP sends Congress, Opposition message that it is a pan-India party, unified ahead of 2019

For the BJP, Gujarat election was special. So was the swearing in ceremony in Gandhinagar. By holding a gala event, inviting chief ministers of all 18 BJP-NDA states, leadership sought to convey multiple messages to its sympathisers and political rivals, particularly the Congress and its leader Rahul Gandhi.

Sanjay Singh December 26, 2017 17:57:02 IST
Vijay Rupani sworn in: BJP sends Congress, Opposition message that it is a pan-India party, unified ahead of 2019

For the BJP, the Gujarat election was special. So was the swearing in ceremony in Gandhinagar. By holding a gala event, inviting chief ministers of all 18 BJP-NDA states, leadership sought to convey multiple messages to its sympathisers and political rivals, particularly the Congress and its leader Rahul Gandhi.

Vijay Rupani sworn in BJP sends Congress Opposition message that it is a panIndia party unified ahead of 2019

Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani at temple seeking blessing before the swearing in ceremony on Tuesday. Twitter/@vijayrupanibjp

First, by choosing a non-controversial, low-profile, caste-neutral Vijay Rupani to lead the state once again, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP president Amit Shah sent a message down the line that there was continuity in government and governance. That the party won the election on basis of performance of the incumbent and has thus gone ahead for next five years with Rupani and deputy chief minister Nitin Patel.

Second, by inviting chief ministers of all 18 states (19th state would be Gujarat where the ceremony was being held) and other coalition leaders at the Centre, the BJP showcased the ruling NDA's pan-India spread. At present, BJP rules 14 states on its own and reigns in five in an alliance. Which explains the BJP's ability to stitch political and social coalitions and run them successfully.

Over the years, the BJP has mastered the art of making swearing in ceremonies for new governments grand public affairs, but the 26 December, 2017, event in Gandhinagar stands out. It manifested at the peak of BJP’s power: Firmly at the Centre for past three-and-half years, no longer confined to be a North Indian party and letting the people know that BJP, in alliance with right partners, had effectively become an all-India party. Party leadership is aware that it still has miles to go in becoming a dominant party in coastal states, but it is working towards that.

Recently, Modi said at a BJP parliamentary party meet that victory in Himachal Pradesh and Gujarat had additional significance: The party, with its alliance partners, rules 19 states, an honour which even Indira Gandhi at the height of her power didn’t have. During Indira’s reign, the Congress held a maximum of 18 states.

Third, there was clear message for the newly-anointed Congress president: That Rahul was going against the unified might of the NDA. The Congress’ slide is evident from the fact it now rules only four states (two in the North East): Punjab, Karnataka, Meghalaya and Mizoram . Of the four Congress-ruled states, Karnataka and Meghalaya are going to the polls. Modi’s continued popularity and ability to weave magic among electorate has always been a challenge for Rahul.

Fourth, Nitish Kumar’s presence at the ceremony was noteworthy. When Nitish severed ties to the BJP and moved closer to the Congress, it seemed as though he could be Opposition’s face to challenge Modi’s popularity and charisma in 2019, but with his return to the NDA, the most credible face in the Opposition ranks is gone. The Oppositions' loss is the ruling BJP's gain. From the pictures beamed live to the nation, it was clear that Bihar chief minister was one of the star attractions at the dais. Modi and Shah spent some time with him before departing the venue.

Fifth, it was also an occasion for Modi to express his gratitude to the people who voted for the BJP for the sixth consecutive time. He turned his journey from the airport to circuit house in Gandhinagar into a virtual road show. He tried to give the impression that he continues to be connected with people in his home state.

The choice of ministers in government formation indicated that the leadership did some brain storming to strike the right social and regional balance. The Patidars, who had consistently supported the BJP and made news in the run-up to the polls due to their perceived grievances, got the lion's share. Eight ministers, including deputy chief minister Nitin Patel come from that community. Out of 99 BJP MLAs, 32 come from Patidar community. Tribal community got two representatives in the government, Dalits got one. Other Backward Castes got six representatives in Cabinet, upper caste Brahmin and Rajput community got one each. A woman was also inducted.

Though this time the BJP secured fewer seats in Saurashtra, they, in a bid to regain their base, gave top priority to the region by naming seven MLAs, including Rupani, as ministers from the region. Three from North Gujarat, five from Central Gujarat and five from South Gujarat have been made ministers. The BJP-NDA caravan moves to Himachal Pradesh on Wednesday to put on an equally grand swearing in ceremony. The excitement in scenic Shimla would be greater among rank and file because here the party has snatched power from the Congress.

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