A Year Before State Elections, Gujarat's Chief Minister And Cabinet Resign

Gujarat's Chief Minister Steps Down: Mansukh Mandaviya, who was just sworn in as Union Health Minister in July, and Nitin Patel, Mr Rupani's deputy, are thought to be probable alternatives, according to sources.

A Year Before State Elections, Gujarat's Chief Minister And Cabinet Resign
A Year Before State Elections, Gujarat's Chief Minister And Cabinet Resign

Vijay Rupani resigned as Gujarat's Chief Minister on Saturday, in an unexpected turn of events ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's home state's Assembly election later next year. 

"...has been a five-year journey for Gujarat's development... under PM Modi's leadership. I have decided to retire as Chief Minister in order to continue develop the state with new energy and power "The news agency cited Mr Rupani.

"It is well known the BJP, as a party, keeps changing as per requirements... it is a speciality of our party that every worker delivers to the fullest, and I too will continue to work for the party with the same energy," he added.

Mr Rupani's departure (and, by extension, his government) leaves the ruling BJP with three options: name a replacement, but the state under President's Rule, or call an early election. According to sources, no decision on early elections has been made yet, and a change of guard - a new Chief Minister - is likely to be the approach. 

BL Santosh and Bhupendra Yadav, senior leaders, are in Ahmedabad to discuss replacements. Mansukh Mandaviya, who was sworn in as Union Health Minister in July, and Nitin Patel, who was Mr Rupani's deputy, are two likely candidates, according to sources. Both Mr Mandaviya and Mr Patel have arrived at the party headquarters in Gandhinagar, according to reports.

Praful Khoda Patel, the present Administrator for the union territories of Dadra and Nagar Haveli and Lakshadweep, is another option, according to some sources. In July, Mr Patel was in the news when a series of controversial directives sparked widespread protests in Lakshadweep and on the mainland. 

Mr Rupani resigned after the party's central leadership expressed displeasure with his performance, according to sources; they've dubbed it a "course correction" by a party keen to shake things up if it's unsure about its state leadership, especially with critical elections coming up next year. The strategy, it seems, is simple - 'if there is resentment against state leadership, sort it out now.

There are recent examples - Karnataka and Uttarakhand - which make Mr Rupani the fourth BJP chief minister to quit his post in the last six months. Following widespread dislike of him and his son, and continuous calls for his removal by a segment of the party's state branch, BS Yediyurappa resigned as Karnataka Chief Minister in July. Tirath Singh Rawat, who had replaced Trivendra Rawat in Uttarakhand, had resigned four months earlier. 

Hardik Patel, the Working President of the Congress' Gujarat branch, led the opposition reaction to Mr Rupani's departure, declaring that "it is apparent the BJP proved to be a complete failure." "Resignation of Chief Minister is a decision taken to mislead people of Gujarat..." he said, citing the "lack of oxygen during coronavirus (second wave)... ever-increasing inflation... rising unemployment... and shutting down of industries" as proof of the BJP's misrule.

The Aam Aadmi Party, which produced solid results in Gujarat local body polls in March before confirming in June that they intend to contest the Assembly election, tweeted a sarcastic swipe. Jignesh Mevani, an independent MLA, tweeted: "Vijay Rupani, Gujarat's chief minister, has resigned: Mr Rupani's resignation for the massive mismanagement of the Covid problem would have been welcomed by the people of Gujarat. This resignation is solely for electoral reasons, with the 2022 Assembly elections in mind." 

In December 2017, Mr Rupani, 65, was sworn in for a second term in front of Prime Minister Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah, and more than a dozen other BJP chief ministers. The BJP won 99 of the state's 182 Assembly seats in the 2017 election, down 17 from 2012. The Congress gained 77 seats, up 16 from the previous election.