Sources in BJP said her replacement could be in place within a week and party president Amit Shah is expected to travel to Ahmedabad to oversee the transfer of power in a state, a BJP bastion for long but where it is faced with serious challenges in the wake of the quota agitation by politically influential Patels and the ongoing Dalit stir.
Though top party sources are tight-lipped about the likely replacement for the state’s first woman chief minister, Nitin Patel, the number two in the state’s cabinet, and Gujarat party chief Vijay Rupani are seen as the front-runners.
Nitin Patel enjoys the confidence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, under whom he had served as a minister in Gujarat, and hails from the influential Patidar community, who has traditionally supported the BJP but have been unhappy with it over the government’s handling of their quota stir.
However, some party leaders feel that he lacks a mass base and may not be an ideal replacement for Anandiben Patel, whose lack of politcal tact was blamed for escalation of Patel and Dalit issues.
Rupani, a confidante of Shah, enjoys support within the party. He, however, belongs to the Jain community, which is numerically insignificant.
Union Minister Parshottam Rupala, a grassroots leader, and Bhikhubhai Dalsaniya, the state party general secretary, are also being seen as contenders for the hot seat.
Speculation has also been rife that Shah, a Gujarat MLA, who was among the contenders to replace Modi as the chief minister in 2014, could replace Anandiben Patel.
Many believe him to be the right person for the job when the party is in a challenging situation in the state, which is going to the polls next year. His appointment can help BJP win over disaffected communities, they feel.
Shah had in the past ruled himself out for the post, saying he has moved on and wants to work at the national level. He is also seen as key to the party’s prospects in assembly polls in Uttar Pradesh where he had steered the party to a spectacular win in the Lok Sabha polls.
Anandiben Patel had offered to resign yesterday maintaining it was time for a fresh face to take over the state’s reins as she would be soon turning 75, understood to be the undeclared age bar in the party for holding ministerial position.