Vijay Rupani resigned as Chief Minister of Gujarat on Saturday in an unexpected turn of events ahead of an Assembly election in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state later next year.
Mr Rupani resigned, sources further said, after the party’s central leadership expressed dissatisfaction with his performance; they have called this a “course correction” by a party eager to change things around if it feels unsure in its state leadership, particularly with key elections due next year.
“… has been a five-year journey for development of Gujarat… under guidance of PM Modi. Now, to further develop the state, with new energy and power, I have decided to resign as Chief Minister.” Mr Rupani was quoted by news agency ANI.
“It is well known the BJP, as a party, keeps changing as per requirements… it is a speciality of our party that every worker delivers to the fullest, and I too will continue to work for the party with the same energy,” he added.
Mr Rupani’s resignation (and, by default, his cabinet’s) leaves the ruling BJP with three options – appoint a successor, allow the state to come under President’s Rule, or have an early election.
Sources have said at this point no decision has been taken on early polls and a change of guard – a new Chief Minister – is likely to be the strategy.
Senior leaders BL Santosh and Bhupendra Yadav are in Ahmedabad to discuss replacements.
Sources have said Mansukh Mandaviya, sworn in as the Union Health Minister in July, and Nitin Patel, who was Mr Rupani’s deputy, are possible replacements. Both Mr Mandaviya and Mr Patel have reached the party office in capital Gandhinagar, ANI reported.
Another possibility, other sources said, is Praful Khoda Patel, who is currently the Administrator for the union territories of Dadra and Nagar Haveli, and Lakshadweep.
Mr Patel was in the headlines in July after a series of controversial orders triggered massive protests in Lakshadweep and the mainland.
In the 2017 election the BJP claimed 99 of the state’s 182 Assembly seats – down 17 from 2012. The Congress won 77 seats – up 16 from the last polls.
(With the inputs from ANI)