Top BJP leaders including party president Amit Shah are reaching Gujarat over the next two days to decide on a consensus candidate for chief minister Anandiben Patel’s successor. She offered to resign Monday, saying it is time “the younger generation gets an opportunity to work”.
Assembly elections in Gujarat are due next year and the BJP is on the backfoot in the state, hit by the Patidar quota agitation and the Dalit protests over the flogging of a Dalit family by gau rakshaks for skinning a dead cow in Una.
Gujarat BJP president and state minister Vijay Rupani Tuesday said a decision on Anandiben’s desire to step down as Chief Minister and the selection of her successor will take at least “three to four days”.
Amit Shah, who is also MLA from Naranpura, is expected to be here Thursday and Friday.
Dinesh Sharma, BJP in-charge of Gujarat, and party general secretary V Sathish are to visit Ahmedabad Wednesday and are expected to meet Anandiben and the MLAs to get a sense on who should be the next Chief Minister.
“The priority for the party is to pick someone who will be able to take on current challenges in the state, feel the pulse of the people, talk to them and lead the party in the 2017 assembly elections,” a Gujarat BJP leader said.
Party sources said the BJP parliamentary board is likely to meet Wednesday to decide on Anandiben’s resignation offer letter. “If the letter is accepted by the parliamentary board, observers will be appointed to select the new chief ministerial candidate,” the leader said.
In Gandhinagar, names have been doing the rounds for the likely successor — among them, Vijay Rupani, Nitin Patel, Bhupendrasinh Chudasama, even Amit Shah.
A section within the BJP is pitching for a Patel, saying it is the need of the hour since the Patidar agitation has impacted the party’s strong support base among Patels.
There is another section that it is rooting for Rupani who is said to be close to the BJP leadership, especially Shah.
But others say replacing a Patel with a non-Patel – Rupani is a Jain – is not a good idea and will only push the Patels further from the BJP. So Nitin Patel, the second in command in the Gujarat government, remains a strong contender though it is said he did not really get along with Anandiben.
WATCH: Anandiben Resigns as Gujarat CM, Who is next in Race?
According to PTI, when Nitin Patel was asked about his chances, he responded with the stock reply that the central leadership will take the decision and everyone will accept it. When the question was put to Rupani, he said whatever responsibilities the party entrusts him, he will shoulder it.