The resignation of Gujarat Chief Minister, Vijay Rupani, the fourth by a BJP CM this year, has not come as a surprise. In fact, the party’s central leadership had made up its mind to replace him after three internal surveys indicated that it may not be possible to win the Assembly elections next year under his leadership. Rupani had been foisted by central leaders and during his tenure, the Patels, the most powerful community in the State, were getting slowly alienated from the party, which they had once nurtured under the overall guidance of the late Keshubhai Patel. Even during the last Assembly polls, despite the BJP throwing all its might with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Home Minister Amit Shah actively campaigning, the party was able to win only 99 out of the 182 seats. It is another matter that they formed the government there with relative ease. Gujarat is perhaps the only natural right-wing state in the country and the BJP’s success story had started from there. Keshubhai Patel, Shankar Sinh Vaghela and finally Modi had put the party on top and therefore it had become a matter of immense concern, that the Saffron Brigade was seen to slipping under Rupani.
The Aam Aadmi Party has made a lot of inroads in the State, particularly in the Surat belt and the Congress too was gaining some ground. Thus, the BJP decided that it was time to get poll ready and for that the Chief Minister had to go. Another dimension of this change is that even in the BJP, the High Command culture is slowly taking over. It is the Central leadership which decides as to who should head the State, something that was evident in Karnataka, Uttrakhand and Assam. In fact, the High Command would have a major say in future as well on matters relating to the politics of States. There was a time when a move had started to replace Yogi Adityanath but the proposal was put on hold after intervention by the RSS. There is widespread speculation that after Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, Shivraj Singh Chauhan may face a similar fate keeping in view the surfacing of factionalism that could have an impact on the party’s electoral prospects. Shivraj Singh Chauhan is a senior leader who has been the CM multiple times but is considered to be in a faction that does not have much support of the current BJP leadership.
Similarly, there are voices in the party that seem to be targeting both Haryana Chief Minister, Manohar Lal Khattar and Himachal CM, Jai Ram Thakur. However, it is unlikely that these two CM’s would be asked to go in the immediate future. There is a Lok Sabha by-election in Mandi, from where Jai Ram Thakur hails. So far as Khattar is concerned, he was picked up by Modi personally.
The focus is entirely on Gujarat, and Bhupendra Patel, a first time MLA and a close associate of former CM and present UP Governor, Anandiben Patel, was chosen to be the next head of the state government.
The 59-year-old leader has risen to the top from the municipality level and enjoys the trust of Prime Minister Modi. Rupani in any case was never the first choice of the RSS which had always wanted a Patel to head the government but agreed on Rupani who at that time was backed by Modi and Shah. With Bhupendra Patel’s elevation, the RSS too appears to be satisfied. Modi and Shah are veterans of many political battles and would never allow their home state to ever slip away from the hands of the BJP. They would ensure that caste equations within the state are perfect and would lead to yet another victory in the Assembly polls next year..
There was a time when a move had started to replace Yogi Adityanath but the proposal was put on hold after intervention by the RSS. There is widespread speculation that after Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister, Shivraj Singh Chauhan may face a similar fate keeping in view the surfacing of factionalism that could have an impact on the party’s electoral prospects.