BJP romped to power again, beating 22 years of incumbency and with an increased vote-share of 49% in what was the clearly the most closely-fought election in recent history. Modi-Shah managed to retain their crown jewel despite a spirited campaign by Congress and their rainbow caste alliance.
So, at this point of time they have don’t have a lot to worry about except for one question:
Who is going to be the next Chief Minister of Gujarat?
Let us take a look at the prime contenders:
1.) Vajubhai Vala: Vajubhai Vala and Prime Minister Modi share a terrific bond. He had PM Modi in splits when he funnily narrated his antics as the Chief Minister of Gujarat on his farewell ceremony. In 2001, Keshubhai Patel and BJP had a fallout, the party instated Modi in his place. Modi needed to contest byelections and become a member of the Gujarat Assembly in 2002. When late Haren Pandya denied Modi his seat, it was Vajubhai who vacated the Rajkot II constituency to allow Modi to contest the byelections. Modi emerged victorious and since then Vajubhai remains Modi’s close friend. He was appointed the speaker of the Gujarat assembly and later the Governor of Karnataka. Vajubhai is considered a mass leader, a terrific speaker and a person with exceptional organisational proficiency. But two factors strongly go against him. Firstly, he has already bid adieu to active politics and secondly, he is 78 years of age. While Vajubhai has all the right skills in his resume, his ascent to the top chair looks doubtful.
2.) Nitin Patel: Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel was almost set to be the CM after Anandiben Patel stepped down in 2016. But Modi-Shah went with Vijay Rupani instead. Nitin Patel is richly experienced and has been the cabinet Minister for Health, Medical Education, Family Welfare, Road and Building. He has also handled water supply, Water Resources, Urban Development and Urban Housing. But the blame of not controlling the Patel agitation and later badly managing it fell squarely on him. This was the reason why Rupani was chosen over him in 2016 and considering that he just about managed to save his own seat this time, might again be the reason why Nitin Patel cannot be the next chief minister of Gujarat.
3.) Parshottam Rupala: Rupala is a well-known leader in the Patidar community. He belongs to the Kadva Patidar community, the same as Hardik Patel. Rupala is known as a grassroot level leader and is well known for his rustic jibes. Rupala is currently a Rajya Sabha MP whose term is due to end in 4 months. He also functions as the Minister of state for Agriculture and Farmers’ welfare. Rupala has also served as the state president of the BJP and has good connect with the state BJP unit. In all, he does look like a promising candidate but there is one factor that can go against him. He hails from Amreli in Saurashtra, the region that gave BJP their worst scorecard in a very long time. Rupala could be blamed for BJP’s drubbing in the Saurashtra region.
The two most likely candidates in my ‘humble’ opinion:
4.) Ganpat Vasava– A surprise candidate in this list, Vasava belongs to the Adivasi community from southern part of the state. It is now widely believed that tribals were a surprise new voter group for BJP this time. Scheduled Tribes such as Bhils, Vasavas and Gamits make up around 14% of Gujarat’s population, too big a block for any party to miss. It is believed that tribals made up for the loss in Patidar votes. Vasava’s appointment as the Chief Minister can help the BJP make further inroads among the tribals, who have been a traditional Congress vote bank. The fact that Ganpat Vasava emerged victorious from Mangrol constituency beating the Congress candidate by over 40,000 votes makes his case even stronger. Another fact that supports Vasava’s candidature is that he fits the Modi-Shah’s “non-traditional-face-model”. Remember Modi-Shah appointed a Brahmin Fadnavis, as the Chief Minister in a Maratha-OBC Maharashtra, a Punjabi Khattar in a Jat dominated state Haryana, and a non-Tribal Das in a tribal dominated state Jharkhand. A tribal Chief Minister in a Patel-Kshatriya-OBC dominated Gujarat doesn’t look unlikely.
5.) Vijay Rupani – For the sake of consistency and for sending a strong message that the narrow victory margin hasn’t rattled the BJP, Rupani needs to continue. Rupani was largely successful in bringing the state back on track after Anandiben’s tumultuous rule. But Rupani is known as a quiet administrator. He is not very popular and lacks connect with people. Amit Shah however assured before the Election that the BJP will fight under the leadership of Rupani and Patel (Nitin), which signals the Party’s willingness to continue with Rupani.
Mansukh Mandaviya: A senior leader known for good organizational skills. He is a Leuva Patel.
Bhupendrasinh Chudasama -The Rajput face of BJP, quite famous among Dalits and is quite close to the RSS as well
Smriti Irani – (Because! The media says so)