Gandhinagar: First-term MLA Bhupendra Patel will be sworn in Gujarat chief minister on Monday, two days after Vijay Rupani’s surprise exit from the post, a year ahead of the Assembly polls. Patel (59), who was unanimously elected BJP legislature party leader on Sunday, will be sworn in as the state’s 17th chief minister at 2.20 pm, an official said.
The party’s CM choice came as a surprise for many as the low-profile, first-time legislator was not seen to be among the top contenders for the post. Only Patel will take the oath on Monday and a decision regarding the new Gujarat cabinet will be taken later, party sources said. Gujarat Governor Acharya Devvrat on Sunday invited Patel to take oath as chief minister.
“The new leader of BJP’s Legislature Party Bhupendrabhai Patel presented a proposal to form the government under his leadership. Accepting the proposal, he was invited to take oath as CM on September 13 at 2.20 pm,” tweeted the Governor.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah is expected to attend the swearing-in ceremony. “I believe that under the guidance of Narendra Modi, the state’s sustainable development will keep up its momentum,” Shah tweeted. Modi phoned Patel on Sunday and congratulated him, a BJP spokesperson said.
Born in Ahmedabad, Patel is an MLA from the Ghatlodia seat, previously held by the former chief minister and now Uttar Pradesh Governor Anandiben Patel. He won the seat by over 1.17 lakh votes in 2017, the highest margin in that poll. Ghatlodia is part of the Gandhinagar Lok Sabha constituency represented by Shah. Patel, who holds a diploma in civil engineering, has served as Ahmedabad municipal councillor and as the chairperson of the Standing Committee of Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation and Ahmedabad Urban Development Authority.
He is also a trustee at Patidar organisations Sardardham and Vishwa Umiya Foundation. With state Assembly polls scheduled in December 2022, the BJP is banking on Bhupendra Patel, a Patidar, to lead the party. In the 2017 Assembly elections, BJP won 99 of the 182 seats and Congress got 77.
The Patidars are a dominant caste in Gujarat with a sizeable control over the electoral votes and dominate the political economy with a stronghold over education, realty and cooperative sectors.
At Sunday’s legislature party meeting, the proposal to elect Patel the legislative party leader was moved by CM Vijay Rupani, whose resignation on Saturday, 15 months ahead of the state Assembly polls, surprised many political observers. Most of the 112 MLAs of the party in the 182-member Assembly were present at the meeting, BJP sources said.
Rupani, the fourth chief minister to demit office in BJP-ruled states during the coronavirus pandemic, was sworn in as chief minister – his second stint as CM – in December 2017. He completed five years in office on August 7 this year. Patel has never held a ministerial post, just like Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was never a minister when he became Gujarat CM 20 years ago.
Modi was sworn in as CM on October 7, 2001, and became an MLA on February 24, 2002, by winning the Rajkot seat bypoll. Gujarat BJP chief C R Patil said Patel’s work at the grass root-level, his hold on the cooperative sector, association with party workers and administrative abilities were among the factors that led to his elevation.