Ahmedabad: Vijay Rupani, Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) state president who turned 60 on 2 August, has been named the chief minister of Gujarat.

Considered to be a close aide of BJP chief Amit Shah, Rupani replaces Anandiben Patel who resigned as chief minister on Monday.

Hailing from the powerful Jain community, Rupani is an MLA from Rajkot West in Saurasthra region. The area is considered a stronghold of the powerful and influential Patel community that is presently agitating for reservation demands. The Patidar agitation has threatened to dent the BJP’s strongest support base, the Patel community, which constitutes nearly 14% of the state’s population. Rupani’s appointment is seen as move to defuse this movement.

Rupani, who began his political career as a student activist, was jailed during the Emergency.

His importance in the Gujarat BJP can be gauged from the fact that instead of Patel, Rupani made the announcement for a 10% quota for the economically backward among upper castes. This move was seen as an attempt to appease the agitating Patel community who form 14% of the state’s population.

Rupani joined Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh during his early days and subsequently joined the Jan Sangh in 1971 has been associated with Bharatiya Janta Party since its establishment.

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 Narendra 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 who was the speaker of Gujarat Legislative Assembly, resigned as the MLA from Rajkot West. He won the by-election on 19 October 2014 by a comfortable margin.

Rupani was picked as the state BJP president in February 2016 after the party did poorly in the local body elections. The other top contenders for the post included Mansukh Mandavia, BJP’s Rajya Sabha member from Gujarat who was made a Union minister last month as part of a Cabinet reshuffle.

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