The Gujarat Assembly has been dissolved and incumbent Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and his cabinet have resigned. In less than 24 hours, the victorious BJP MLAs will meet the party’s central observers Arun Jaitley and Saroj Pandey, to decide on the name of the next CM.
The current CM-and-deputy duo, Vijay Rupani and Nitin Patel respectively, will also attend the meeting. Many pundits and analysts have speculated that both Rupani and Patel will be retained and the swearing-in ceremony will be held on 25 December, which happens to be former PM Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s birthday.
Yet, lobbying is on for some prominent names to take up the mantle of chief minister-ship in Gujarat. After 22 years of being in power, the BJP managed to get only seven seats over and above the halfway mark. Now, the party needs to install a strong face as the CM to put an end to any speculation that its losing its grip.
Is Vajubhai Vala Returning to Gujarat?
Vajubhai Vala is a veteran BJP leader who represented Rajkot West for close to three decades. In 2014, he was appointed as Governor of Karnataka after Narendra Modi took office in New Delhi. Vala helped Modi win his first ever assembly elections back in 2002 and held the portfolio of the state Finance Minister with the distinction of presenting the budget 18 times. He was also the Speaker of the House for two years before his appointment as Governor of Karnataka.
But why is Vala’s name being thrown up in the list of probable CM candidates? For starters, he is the most experienced of all current BJP MLAs of the state, and is quite close to PM Modi. He also hails from the Karadia Rajput clan, which makes him caste-neutral in Gujarat just as Vijay Rupani. Vala continues to have tremendous influence on Saurashtra, as he still visits Rajkot almost every weekend and owns several properties there.
The biggest question with Vala’s appointment is whether Rupani will step down from Rajkot West to let Vala win the bypoll. The only factor that goes against Vala is his age, however, his experience and influence can make up for it.
Will Smriti Irani Run the House?
The Union Minister of Textiles and Information & Broadcasting was a popular face during BJP’s campaign this year. Smriti Irani was elected to Rajya Sabha from Gujarat earlier this year and continues to remain a popular face among Gujaratis. But is that enough for Irani to ascend to new political heights as the chief minister of Modi’s Gujarat?
Irani’s name has come up several times since Monday, 18 December, when the BJP’s electoral victory was declared. She is well-versed in Gujarati and making her the CM could circumvent any internal strife that is festering within the Gujarat BJP. However, she is not a local and her influence across the state will be tested in 2019.
What About Rupani and Patel?
As mentioned earlier, analysts and pundits believe Vijay Rupani and Nitin Patel will be reinstated as chief minister and deputy chief minister respectively. This election season was quite grueling for both the party veterans. Yet, the duo survived and retained their respective constituencies.
Had one of them lost the election, especially Rupani, there would have been no question of reinstating them. However, both party stalwarts have sidestepped that landmine. Yet, there is a speculative undercurrent as to who will be appointed the new CM of Gujarat.
All cards will be dealt within the next 24 hours.