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RSS man who said Una Dalit thrashing was a "law and order problem" is the new Gujarat chief minister

Vijay Rupani with Nitin Patel
By Rajiv Shah
Setting aside wild speculations running for the last two days that Nitin Patel, known for his rough-and-tough ways, would become chief minister, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has chosen his well-known protege, Vijay Rupani, to succeed Anandiben Patel, who resigned on a Facebook post early this week.
Unlike Patel, who is known for his short temper among party colleagues as also outside, Rupani is considered suave and affable – a characteristic, to quote a senior Sachivalaya insider, is “miserably lacking in the current tribe of Gujarat's BJP politicians.”
Known to be close to BJP chief Amit Shah, too, Rupani began his political career as an Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP) leader. While senior IAS officials do not have two views about about their dislike to work with Patel, as for Rupani, they believe it has been a “boon” to work with him.
“He is dynamic, forthright and approachable”, the top insider, who has intimately known Rupani for several decades, commented, adding, “It is, however, yet to be seen whether he will be able to handle the Patidar rebels, on one hand, and the Dalit agitators, on the other.”
The insider, with deep knowledge of BJP politics, said, “Even Patels were unhappy with Nitin Patel's choice. Some businessmen who met me yesterday wondered how could he be allowed to become chief minister.”
According to this insider, Nitin Patel has been made deputy chief minister “on insistence of Anandiben Patel, who pressured the High Command into believing that a Patel deputy chief minister was a must to keep the Patidar anger at bay.”
The insider said, the BJP high comment led by Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah, however, believes that Patel votes are a “lost case” in the next elections. “It wanted a non-Patel to take over. Rupani was the best choice”, he added.
An RSS cadre jailed during the Emergency, one who strongly believes that there has to be a Hindutva backdrop to every political action and developmental policy, Rupani, as state BJP president, however, is seen to be a failure in establishing direct rapport with Dalits, protesting against the thrashing of four Dalit boys for skinning a dead cow on July 11.
Rupani calls the thrashing incident a “law and order problem” which has been “blown out of proportion”, adding caste is “not an issue in Gujarat.”
Said a party insider, “The BJP's Dalit leaders are unhappy, despite belonging to a region where the incident took place (Saurashtra), Rupani never visited Una, nor did he meet the four Dalit victims when they were under treatment in Ahmedabad.”
Low profile, Rupani, 60, is the first Jain to become Gujarat chief minister. On being asked two days back whether he would like to become chief minister, he told newspersons that he is “not in race”, adding, he has “conveyed” it to the high command that he had rather serve the party.
He said this, even as Patel's men were celebrating with crackers in Mehsana in North Gujarat over rumours that he had been “chosen” as the chief minister, a behaviour, many say, is "not to the liking Modi."
Even before a chief minister was announced, Patel ensured that his profile was sent out to newspaper offices, posters welcoming him as chief minister were put up in Mehsana, his home district, and his wife began distributing sweets.
A politician who has so far managed to remain above controversy and a previous Rajya Sabha MP, Rupani won the Rajkot (West) seat of the Gujarat state assembly with a handsome margin of 24,000 votes in a bypoll. The first time MLA, the seat was vacated by finance minister Vajubhai Vala, who was chosen as Karnataka governor after Modi became Prime Minister in 2014.

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