“There was only one resolution…to elect Vijay Rupani as leader of BJP legislature party and Nitin Patel as the deputy leader. This resolution been passed unanimously," Union finance minister and BJP national observer Arun Jaitley announced in Gandhinagar on Friday.
The names of the two leaders were proposed by senior BJP leader and legislator from Dholka, Bhupendrasinh Chudasama. The selection came after an hour-long process during which a core committee meeting was convened under the chairmanship of Jaitley, before a meeting of all the elected BJP legislators.
The election of Rupani and Patel for a second term was a quiet affair, unlike last year when the 61-year-old Saurashtra leader had surprised many as Patel’s name had been doing the rounds for the top post.
Although the BJP’s tally in the state assembly has dropped from 115 in 2012 to 99 post this year’s Gujarat elections, Rupani has been rewarded for successfully retaining the party’s hold on the state in the face of anti-incumbency, rural unrest and agitations by various caste leaders. Rupani won his Rajkot (West) constituency by a margin of over 51,000 votes, higher than seven-time legislator from the constituency, Karnataka governor Vajubhai Vala, or Prime Minister Narendra Modi who won from here in 2002.
Rupani had a tough contest against Congress candidate Indranil Rajyaguru, the richest candidate to contest the Gujarat elections this year with assets worth Rs141 crore.
“My sincere gratitude to Honourable PM Shri Narendra Modiji & BJP President Shri Amit Shahji for reposing trust and confidence in a humble karyakarta like me. I also thank Gujarat BJP for sustaining trust," Rupani said in a tweet on Friday.
Rupani contested and won an assembly seat for the first time in 2014. In a span of two years, the 61-year-old rose among the ranks, first getting cabinet rank in Anandiben Patel’s government and then becoming president of BJP’s state unit in February 2016, after the party did poorly in local body elections. Nitin Patel has been rewarded for retaining his Mehsana constituency amid the Patel quota stir in North Gujarat. He at present is one of the tallest Patel leaders in the BJP. Speaking to party legislators, Patel thanked them and urged them to work to increase the vote share from 49.1% in the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Belonging to a small farmer community, Patel has been a state minister for over 16 years, except between 2002 and 2007, when he lost the election.
Born in Burma (now Myanmar) in 1956, Rupani moved to India as a child with his parents. He began his political career as a student activist with Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the BJP’s student wing, in the late 1960s (when the BJP was known as the Bharatiya Jana Sangh) and later joined the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the BJP’s ideological parent.
In 1987, he was elected to the Rajkot Municipal Corporation as a BJP candidate and eventually became mayor in 1996. He rose steadily in his political career, becoming general secretary of the BJP state unit in 1998 and getting nominated to the Rajya Sabha in 2006.
He has served as a corporator in Rajkot and has been the mayor and also a member of Rajya Sabha. Rupani has been close to Prime Minister Modi with whom he worked as BJP’s Gujarat unit general secretary and chairman of the Gujarat Finance Board when the latter was the chief minister of Gujarat between 2001 and 2014.
He became an MLA only in 2014 when Vajubhai Vala resigned as the MLA from Rajkot West to become governor of Karnataka. He won the by-election on 19 October 2014 by a comfortable margin.
Rupani has held several portfolios, including transport, labour and employment in the Anandiben government, and was, interestingly, not really considered a front-runner for the post of chief minister.
The BJP, which won 99 seats of the 182-seat Gujarat Assembly in the recently concluded elections, on Friday saw its tally rise to 100, with one independent announcing his support to BJP. Lunawada MLA Ratansinh Rathore sent a letter to state governor O.P. Kohli announcing his intent of lending unconditional support to BJP government.
Rathore, who had been a Congressman for over two decades, contested from Lunawada in Gujarat elections, after his party refused to field him as their official candidate. The Congress instead fielded Paranjayadityasinhji Parmar as its candidate who lost.
“We would let you know the date of swearing in of the new government shortly," Jaitley later told mediapersons.