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Vijay Rupani is set to take charge as Gujarat’s chief minister for a second time. Nitin Patel will continue in his role as deputy chief minister. Rupani, who won the Assembly polls by a margin of over 50,000 votes from the Rajkot West seat, was unanimously elected leader of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) legislature party at a meeting on Friday, which was attended by all the MLAs. The meeting at Kamalam, the party head office here at Gandhinagar, was convened by Jitu Vaghani, the BJP state unit president. Senior BJP leader and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley — who was in the state capital as a central observer from the BJP — made the formal announcement on Friday afternoon.
Jaitley and BJP General Secretary Saroj Pandey had arrived in Gujarat to discuss with the MLAs and decide who the CM should be.Speaking to journalists, Jaitley said a procedure of consultation was followed, wherein members were asked if they wanted to name anyone else. “Since there were none, the two (Rupani and Patel) were declared as unanimously elected.” Rupani and Patel said they would continue to work together to ensure the development of Gujarat. Rupani added that while the seats tally had fallen (the BJP bagged 99 seats in the 182-member Assembly, its lowest tally in the last two decades), Gujarat’s citizens had given a clear mandate in favour of the BJP. “We would develop Gujarat as a role model as far as development (vikas) was considered,” said Rupani, adding that Patel’s experience as an able administrator and politician would come in handy in running the state administration. The soft spoken and gentle-mannered Rupani was a front runner in the race to the CM’s office. BJP President Amit Shah had said during the party’s poll campaign that the electoral battle would be fought under Rupani’s leadership. With the BJP’s seats tally falling short of Shah’s claim of 150 seats, speculation was rife this week as to whether BJP would choose to continue with Rupani as the leader. Rupani and his ministers had tendered in their resignations to Governor O P Kohli on Thursday, following the dissolution of the legislative assembly. Political observers said making someone else CM after the BJP’s close win would have sent a wrong signal to the party cadre as well as the general public. Rupani is largely hailed as a caste-neutral candidate as he belongs to the Jain community (which comprises five per cent of the state’s population).