Gandhi Nagar: Vijay Rupani, 61, took oath as Gujarat Chief Minister on Tuesday morning, in a ceremony that doubled as a massive show of strength by the BJP. Prime Minister Narendra Modi attended, as did party chief Amit Shah and 18 BJP chief ministers. Key ally Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar was also there along with his deputy Sushil Kumar Modi. This is the second term of office for Rupani as Chief Minister. He took over from Anandiben Patel in August 2016.
Vijay Rupani was sworn in along with 19 other ministers, including Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel. The BJP has opted to repeat the duo despite a lower margin of victory in Gujarat in the assembly elections, results for which were announced last week.
11 ministers from the outgoing cabinet have been retained, while there are nine new faces, with the party making its selection carefully ahead of the 2019 national election, when PM Modi will seek a second term. The BJP hopes to repeat its sweep of the state; in 2014, it had won all Gujarat’s 26 parliament seats.
Among the minsters who took oath along with the CM, seven are from Saurashtra, the region where the BJP lost the most in this time’s assembly elections, six from north Gujarat, five from south Gujarat and two from central Gujarat.
Mr Rupani’s new cabinet has six other backward castes (OBC) ministers and six from the influential Patels or Patidars, both key groups in the state that were aggressively wooed by the Congress in the assembly elections as the opposition party tried to cash in on their anger against the ruling BJP.
Three of the new ministers are tribals, whose backing helped the BJP do well in eastern part of the state, making up somewhat for the big losses in Saurashtra. There are two Rajputs and a Dalit, Brahmin and Jain minister each.
Vijay Rupani, close to Amit Shah and a leader with a clean image, was always seen as a frontrunner, especially after the BJP chief signalled earlier this year that he would continue as chief minister after the elections. But his chances of being retained in the top post were seen to diminish after the BJP won 99 seats, only seven more than it needed for a majority to form government and 16 less than it had won last time.
The Congress vastly improved its position, winning 80 seats along with allies after a campaign focused on local development, and Vijay Rupani’s critics blamed him. But there are those who have pointed out that replacing Vijay Rupani would’ve amounted to an admission that the party has suffered a setback in Gujarat.
Party leaders, including PM Modi and Amit Shah, have emphatically said that a win in the elections and being chosen by the state again after 22 years of continuously being in power cannot in any way be seen as a setback.