Vijay Rupani's exit in Gujarat, the changes in Uttarakhand and Karnataka are signs, that the Bharatiya Janata Party's top leadership is feeling the weight of anti-incumbency amid Covid-19 mismanagement, economic decline and price rise. In Gujarat, which is among the seven states scheduled for Assembly polls in 2022, Vijay Rupani quit as the chief minister on Saturday. Uttarakhand, the other state in poll mode, has seen BJP replace two chief ministers since March. The chopping and changing of chief ministers come on the heels of the BJP's loss in West Bengal and the farmers' protests in north India getting a second wind. The BJP's nervousness is evident in the dissonance, particularly in Uttar Pradesh, in its message on crucial issues — its confusion over the demand for an OBC (Other Backward Classes) census, its policies on meat and alcohol consumption apart from cow slaughter and women's empowerment. The BJP currently rules six of the seven poll-bound states. In 2019, the party had won 101 of the 132 Lok Sabha seats in these states, a third of its 303 seats. Assembly polls in UP, Goa, Manipur, Punjab and Uttarakhand are scheduled for February 2022. Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh will go to polls in November-December 2022, and Karnataka a few months later in April 2023.
Vijay Rupani became the fourth BJP’s chief minister to be replaced in the last six months. In a surprise move, Rupani on Saturday resigned as Chief Minister of Gujarat almost 15 months before state polls, becoming the fourth chief minister to be changed in six months in three states – Uttarakhand, Karnataka and Gujarat.
In March, the saffron party replaced Uttarkhand then chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat with Lok Sabha member Tirath Singh Rawat. In July, four months after being made chief minister, Tirath Singh Rawat was replaced by two-time MLA Pushkar Singh Dhami. After Uttarakhand, BJP replaced B.S. Yediyurappa with B.S. Bommai.
A party leader claimed that chief ministers in Gujarat and Karnataka were replaced to bring in new leadership in the state. “In Karnataka, there was strong resentment against the chief minister and his son. Similarly, there was demand in Gujarat unit for removal of Rupani by a section of the party saying it will be difficult to win next year’s state polls under his leadership,” he said.
While in Uttarakhand chief minister Trivendra Singh Rawat was replaced to bring in a new face but Tirath Singh Rawat removed due his failure to get elected to state assembly within six months of being sworn in as chief minister of state.
Among all the replacement of BJP chief ministers, the current change of guard in Gujarat took place without any buzz. “There was a discussion and demand from a section in the party to change the chief minister but no one expected that news would come this way. We have no idea that it will be announced after resignation,” a party leader from Gujarat said.
In March, before replacing Trivendra Singh Rawat, the BJP had sent two members to the state, which included former Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh, to collect feedback. Similarly before replacing Tirath Singh Rawat, the BJP central leadership had called him to the national capital and explained to him about the constitutional and legal crisis. Amid months of speculation about a change of guard in Karnataka, Yediyurappa had met Prime Minister Narendra Modi and top BJP leadership. Yediyurappa took his time and resigned after completion of two years of his government in July.
In a major political development, Vijay Rupani tendered his resignation to Gujarat Governor Acharya Devvrat at his residence, Raj Bhavan in Gandhinagar. The BJP leader confirmed that he has resigned from the top post.
“I am resigning from the post of the Chief Minister. I thank PM Modi and the party for giving me an opportunity to work for five years,” Vijay Rupani told the reporters at Raj Bhavan.
“I am just a worker of the organisation and will continue to be so. For the upcoming state Assembly elections, definitely our PM Modi will be the face,” Rupani said, when asked who will be the face for the elections, as he and the party earlier had declared that the 2022 elections will be led by him.
“I will accept whatever responsibility the party gives me,” said Rupani.
Vijay Rupani took the state’s Chief Ministerial position on August 7, 2016, and represents Rajkot West in the Gujarat Legislative Assembly. It is learnt from sources that the party will declare Rupani’s replacement by Sunday. Most likely his replacement could be deputy chief minister Nitin Patel.
The Gujarat BJP legislature party is likely to meet on Sunday to choose the new chief minister. Union Minister Amit Shah is most likely to join the legislature party meeting along with central observers. The meeting is to be held at state BJP HQ at Kamalam.
According to national general secretary in charge of Gujarat Bhupender Yadav, the BJP has convened a meeting of its legislature party on Sunday to elect a new leader. Union Home Minister Amit Shah is reaching here on Sunday.
“The BJP legislature party is likely to meet on Sunday, but we will be able to confirm this once the central parliamentary board conveys the exact time of the meeting to us. All BJP MLAs will attend the meeting along with central observers,” said Yamal Vyas, the BJP spokesperson at Kamalam.
“The name of the new CM will be decided in the meeting. Being the Parliament constituency legislator, Amit Shah is also likely to be at the meeting,” Vyas added.
The saffron party is yet to announce Rupani’s replacement. But, political pundits are speculating a number of faces looking at the current scenario.
Praful Patel, the administrator of Union Territories of Lakshadweep and Daman and Diu is one such face that is likely to replace Rupani. He is believed to be close to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah.
Speculations are also rife that one of the state general secretaries Gordhan Zadaphia, a Patidar, may be given the mantle, though there is no official indication. Zadaphia was the home minister in the Modi government in Gujarat in 2002, during the infamous Godhra riots and believed to be a hardliner right wing face of the saffron party.
This is besides Union Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya, who is also a Patidar and his name has been cropping up for the post during the last one year.
The new political developments began on Saturday morning after BJP national general secretary (organisation) B.L. Santhosh landed at the Ahmedabad airport, driving straight to the party headquarters Shri Kamalam in Gandhinagar.
Soon after a closed door meeting started in which Santhosh, Gujarat BJP President C.R. Paatil and newly-appointed state general secretary (Organisation) Ratnakar, Chief Minister Vijay Rupani and Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel participated. Thereafter both Rupani and Patel drove down to the Raj Bhavan to tender the resignation.
Rupani and Patel were accompanied by all the cabinet ministers. They were joined by union ministers Mansukh Mandaviya and Parshottam Rupala, both Patidars, at the governor’s residence.
It should be noted that, Gujarat Pradesh Congress Committee (GPCC) president, Amit Chavda at that time had said that it was an indication of Rupani’s exit as the BJP had miserably failed on all fronts in fighting the second surge of Covid-19 in Gujarat. Rupani, however, had rubbished the claim.
It is learnt from sources that most probably the party will declare Rupani’s replacement by Monday after the legislature party meet on Sunday. (IANS)