The suspense over who will succeed Anandiben Patel and be the next Chief Minister of Gujarat is likely to end today after a meeting of BJP leaders in Gandhinagar.
The meeting, where BJP lawmakers will elect the new chief minister, will be attended by party president Amit shah and two central observers – Nitin Gadkari and Saroj Pande.
Mr Shah arrived in Ahmedabad yesterday and held intensive deliberations with party leaders to finalise the candidate. Among those he met was Nitin Patel, the senior-most minister from the state who is believed to be the frontrunner for the post. He also met state BJP president Vijay Rupani, a Jain leader known to be close to both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, who has withdrawn from the race.
Mr Patel holds several key portfolios in the Gujarat government and is, like Anandiben, an influential Patel leader from north Gujarat. He had headed the committee that held negotiations with leaders of the Patel or Patidaar agitation for reservation in government jobs and colleges.
Others in the race are union minister Purshottam Rupala and Gujarat Assembly Speaker Ganpat Vasava.
Anandiben Patel, Gujarat’s first woman chief minister, had announced her resignation on Facebook on Monday, saying she was quitting two months before her 75th birthday in accordance with the party’s practice of retiring older leaders to give a chance to younger leaders.
She is accused of mismanaging both the Patel agitation for reservation and the recent Dalit protests over the brutal beating of four young men by cow vigilantes.
The BJP, which has ruled the state for 25 years straight, also suffered a humiliating setback in municipal elections and the new chief minister will have to make urgent corrections to revive the party’s stock in time for assembly elections next year in Gujarat, which is also PM Modi’s home state.