New Delhi: Vijay Rupani resigned as Chief Minister of Gujarat on Saturday evening in an unexpected move ahead of elections in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state late next year.
“… has been a five-year journey for development of Gujarat… under guidance of PM Modi. Now, to further develop the state, with new energy and power, I have decided to resign as Chief Minister,” Mr Rupani was quoted by news agency ANI.
“It is well known that BJP, as a party, keeps changing as per requirements… it is a speciality of our party that every worker delivers his/her assigned job to the fullest, and I too will continue to work for the party with the same energy,” he added.
Mr Rupani’s resignation was followed by that of his cabinet in a stunning twist that leaves the ruling BJP with three options – appoint a successor (and new cabinet), allow the state to come under President’s Rule or have an Assembly election much earlier than scheduled.
Sources have said at this point no decision has been taken on early polls and a change of guard – a new Chief Minister – is likely to be the strategy.Sources also said Mansukh Mandaviya, who was just sworn in as the Union Health Minister in July, and Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel are possible replacements.
Some reports have indicated Mr Mandaviya, who was born in Gujarat’s Bhavnagar and is a Rajya Sabha MP from the state, has already reached Mr Rupani’s residence.
Mr Rupani resigned, sources further said, after the party’s central leadership expressed dissatisfaction with his performance; sources have called this a “course correction” by a BJP eager to change things around if it feels unsure in its state leadership.
The strategy, it seems, is simple – ‘if there is resentment against state leadership, sort it out now’. There are recent examples – Karnataka and Uttarakhand.
In July BS Yediyurappa resigned as Karnataka Chief Minister following resentment against him and his son, and unrelenting calls for his removal by a section of the party’s state unit.
Before that there was the double whammy in Uttarakhand, where Tirath Singh Rawat quit barely four months after replacing Trivendra Rawat.
The Uttarakhand example is particularly interesting because, like Gujarat, the state will hold elections next year. Trivendra Rawat and Tirath Singh Rawat were both replaced with around six months to polls, underlining the BJP’s willingness to take big decisions to retain power.
Mr Rupani, 61, was sworn in as Gujarat Chief Minister in December 2017 in front of Prime Minister Modi, Home Minister Amit Shah and over a dozen other BJP chief ministers