Rupani is the fourth BJP chief minister to be axed this year after BS Yediyurappa (Karnataka), Tirth Singh Rawat (Uttarakhand) and Trivendra Rawat (Uttarakhand).
Speaking to reporters after submitting his resignation at the Raj Bhavan, Rupani acknowledged that in BJP, there is a tradition of responsibilities shifting from time to time.
“I was allowed to serve the state for five years. I have contributed to the development of the state. I will further do whatever is asked by my party.
“In BJP, there has been a tradition that responsibilities of party workers change from time to time. I will be ready to take whatever responsibility that the party will give me in the future,” he said.
Covid crisis and ‘soft’ image
While the exact reason behind Rupani’s departure can only be speculated, observers point to factors like the Covid crisis and his image as the CM.
The second wave of Covid pandemic in Gujarat and the resultant economic as well as social distress may have had a role to play in Rupani’s exit, PTI reported quoting observers.
Some observers said that Rupani’s soft-spoken nature led to the image of a “weak” CM who allowed bureaucrats to overrule the political leadership.
Rupani first became the Gujarat chief minister on August 7, 2016, following the resignation of incumbent Anandiben Patel, and continued in the office after the BJP’s victory in the 2017 assembly elections.
He had completed five years as the CM in August this year.
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Shift in BJP’s brand of politics?
Rupani’s resignation comes during the year which has witnessed similar high-profile exits in other states. This is a departure from how the BJP operated during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first term in office.
The saffron party remained largely unyielding in backing its chief ministerial picks before 2019 despite voices against some of them.
Political watchers believe the changes highlight the BJP leadership’s analysis of the ground feedback and its readiness to address them, even though a final word on the shake-up can only be delivered at the elections.
Notably, Anandiben Patel was the only chief minister who was asked by the party to quit during the 2014-19 period. This was also in Gujarat.
The party had then cited its convention of retiring those over 75 years of age from government positions. She was subsequently replaced by Rupani.
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The recent spate of changes effected by the party at the central government or in states ruled by it has marked a return of more conventional politics with the standard political fault-lines of caste identity pushing the urge to experiment to the background.
The enhanced share of Other Backward Classes (OBCs) at 27 and dalits at 12 in the Union Council of Ministers following its expansion in July was showcased as a major highlight.
The saffron party also replaced Lingayat stalwart B S Yediyurappa as Karnataka CM with another Lingayat leader Basavaraj S Bommai.
In Uttarakhand, it replaced two Thakur chief ministers with another Thakur leader, and speculation was rife that Rupani, who comes from a numerically insignificant Jain community, may make way for a Patidar, the largest community in the western state.
Who will be Rupani’s successor?
While the BJP has not announced Rupani’s replacement yet, names of Gujarat deputy CM Nitin Patel, state agriculture minister R C Faldu and Union ministers Purshottam Rupala and Mansukh Mandaviya are doing the rounds.
“Names of Patel, Faldu, Rupala and Mandaviya are being discussed. But it is impossible to say who will be the chief minister as the decision will be taken by Prime Minister Narendra Modi,” a party leader said.
Mandaviya and Patel visited the BJP office in Gandhinagar earlier today, shortly after Rupani announced his resignation.
Mandaviya, who like Patel belongs to the influential Patidar community, is also considered a front-runner. Leaders of the community had demanded recently that the next chief minister should be a Patidar.
State BJP president C R Paatil, who originally hails from Maharashtra, is unlikely to be considered for the CM’s post, sources said.
(With inputs from PTI)
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