Gujarat election results 2017 has given a big sigh of relief to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leadership in the state as it managed to retain power. However, the win was facile, not up to the benchmark of Target 150 plus set up by BJP president Amit Shah. In one of the rallies during the campaign, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had also assured the people that the saffron party would get 150 seats. But people of Gujarat have signaled that the BJP must do a lot of soul searching to gain back the hold it had on the state in the last 22 years. One factor that clearly dented BJP’s goal in the state was the absence of Modi in Gujarat. Now a media report says, the BJP is looking for a charismatic leader who can hold sway over the people and hold the Gujarat fortress intact for the party in the run-up to the 2019 General Elections. One surprise name among the probable faces is Smriti Irani, as per the report.
According to a report by India Today, Union minister Smriti Irani, who has been busy preparing the ground for routing Congress president Rahul Gandhi from his constituency Amethi, may replace incumbent CM Vijay Rupani in Gujarat. Sourced told India Today that the BJP wants a CM who has “strong appeal; with the public” and can fulfill electoral promises made to the people. The report says she is the “probable front-runner” for many reasons such as – she is fluent in Gujarati, close to PM Modi and also has strong leadership qualities. Other favorite leaders who could replace Rupani are Union minister of state for road transport & highways and shipping Mansukh L Mandaviya and Vajubhai Vala, the incumbent governor of Karnataka and former Speaker of the Gujarat Legislative Assembly, the report says.
However, Irani strongly denied that she is in the race for Gujarat CM. “If there is a ‘gali’ ka election, you will hear my name. I am one of those fortunate ones who just make a name without making an attempt, whatsoever. I think that is just wishful thinking on someone’s behalf. I think the party president has spoken on it, the parliamentary board decides it. I am definitely not in contention,” she told India Today.
Watch Smriti Irani’s reaction
After the election results were out on Monday, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had however hinted there won’t be any change in leadership. When asked who the next Chief Minister of Gujarat will be or whether the party high command was thinking of replacing him or whether the current CM was still the front-runner for the post, Jaitley said, ”I think a CM who gets you 49% votes, is a popular CM of a popular government, and a leader.”
He also said the BJP defied anti-incumbency and in three of the four rural areas of Gujarat, the party did reasonably well.