Patel’s remarks come hours after the BJP named its MLA Bhupendra Patel as the new chief minister of Gujarat to replace outgoing Vijay Rupani.
A surprise pick, Bhupendra Patel is a first-time MLA who is considered to be a close aide of former chief minister Anandiben Patel.
Since Rupani’s sudden exit on Saturday, deputy CM Nitin Patel was seen as one of the frontrunners for the CM post as he is a popular Patidar leader and the party was expected to pick someone from the community.
There was speculation that Nitin Patel was unhappy after Bhupendra Patel was chosen as the next chief minister in a meeting of BJP MLAs at the party headquarters ‘Kamalam’ in Gandhinagar on Sunday.
However, Patel said there was no substance in such claims.
He said that on Sunday, he left the party office only after taking permission from the BJP’s Gujarat in charge Bhupender Yadav.
Addressing the people of Mehsana during a function after the announcement, Nitin Patel quipped that he is not the only one who has missed the bus and there are “many others” like him.
“There were many others who also missed the bus. I was not the only one. So do not look at this development in that way. It’s the party which makes decisions. People make wrong speculations. I told Yadavji (after the MLA meeting) that I have to attend this programme. I would have myself given it a pass if it was not of that much importance. But since it was very important, even Yadavji gave his consent,” the deputy CM said.
“There were many things running on TV when I was coming here. I want to tell you that till I am in the hearts of my people, voters and party workers, no one can throw me out. I was in opposition (during Congress rule) for a considerable time in the past,” he added.
Incidently, this is not the first time Nitin Patel’s name was a strong contendor for the top post.
In August 2016, when Anandiben Patel resigned as chief minister, there was talk that Nitin Patel would succeed her. However, in a last-minute decision, Rupani was picked for the top post instead.
The demand to make Nitin Patel chief minister began to trend on social media immediately after Rupani’s resignation.
There were many who felt that the party should reward Patel for his unflinching, loyal stint with the party wherein he sportingly suffered the setback of being relegated to No. 2 after his candidature was almost final in 2016.
There is still suspense over whether Patel would continue to remain as the deputy CM in the next government led by Bhupendra Patel or not. Both these leaders belong to the powerful and politically influential Patidar community in Gujarat.
(With inputs from PTI)
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