New Delhi/Gandhinagar: The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Wednesday accepted Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel’s request to be relieved from the post and authorized party president Amit Shah to hold consultations with legislators before announcing her replacement.

The new chief minister will not be Shah, the party clarified, ending days of speculation.

The parliamentary board of the party, which met at the residence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday morning, also appointed Union minister Nitin Gadkari and general secretary Saroj Pandey as observers in the selection process and asked them to consult the party’s legislators. Shah, who is also a legislator from Gujarat, will be present at the legislature party meeting.

The legislature party meeting is likely to take place on Friday while Shah is reaching Ahmedabad on Thursday to hold discussions with party MLAs.

“The parliamentary board gave its approval to Anandiben Patel to quit. She had wished to be relieved of her responsibility as she would turn 75 soon. She has set a great precedent for lakhs of party workers. It put on record her very good work as chief minister and as a minister earlier," said M. Venkaiah Naidu, Union minister, who is also part of the parliamentary board.

In Gandhinagar, Patel submitted her resignation to governor O.P. Kohli on Wednesday. She will continue as chief minister till her successor is decided.

Among the top contenders for the post are Gujarat health minister Nitin Patel, considered the No. 2 in the state cabinet, and BJP state unit president Vijay Rupani, also the state’s transport and water supply minister.

The choice of the new chief minister is crucial for the BJP as assembly elections are due in December 2017.

“Nitin Gadkari and Saroj Pandey were appointed observers by parliamentary board. The two leaders will visit Gujarat to hold meetings. The name of the next chief minister of the state will be decided after the consultations," Naidu said.

He added that there was no question of Shah being named the next chief minister of Gujarat.

Also read: The rise and fall of Anandiben Patel

“Our president is also an MLA. He will be present in the meeting. He will hold consultations, following which the successor will be decided. BJP wants Amit Shah to lead the party in national politics. Such a question does not arise. He is the party president, and is going to remain party president," Naidu said.

Patel offered to resign on Monday, citing her age. As per an informal policy in the BJP, leaders above the age of 75 should not hold any administrative post.

In a Facebook post, Patel said that though she would reach the age of 75 only in November, she had decided to step down early, keeping in mind next year’s assembly polls and the ‘Vibrant Gujarat’ summit. The resignation would give her successor enough time to settle down, she said.

She also thanked Prime Minister Modi for choosing her as his successor in Gujarat, adding that she had tried her best to offer “resulted-oriented governance".

Patel’s resignation came in the wake of widespread unrest in Gujarat following the Patidar agitation and, more recently, protests by Dalits. The Patidar agitation, which began last August, has threatened to dent the BJP’s strongest support base, the Patel community, which constitutes nearly 14% of the state’s population.

Political analysts said selecting a new chief minister of Gujarat will not be difficult for the BJP because Shah will be part of the process, and he understands the state well. “Amit Shah has been part of the state government in Gujarat and also worked in the organization in the state. He understands the state well and the choice will not be difficult for the party. In all likelihood, BJP leaders would have already decided the name of the new chief minister, and it will only be a formality," said Mumbai-based political analyst Jai Mrug.

PTI contributed to the story.

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