Six days after Anandiben Patel suddenly quit, a new BJP team on Sunday took charge of Gujarat with Vijay Rupani sworn in as Chief Minister and senior leader Nitin Patel as his deputy.Governor O.P. Kohli administered the oath of office and secrecy to a 25-member ministry at the Mahatma Mandir Complex here. There are nine cabinet ministers inclusive of Rupani and Nitin Patel and 16 ministers of state.Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was Chief Minister of Gujarat from 2001 till he became Prime Minister in 2014, called up Rupani to congratulate him and his team. As many as nine ministers of the previous government have been dropped by Rupani, who inducted 11 new faces representing the different regions of the state.Sources in the Bharatiya Janata Party said the axing of the nine had the stamp of BJP President Amit Shah, who is known to have played a major role in ensuring that Rupani got the top job in the state, a party stronghold. Anandiben had clamoured for Nitin Patel. Significant among those dropped are Finance, Energy and Industries Minister Saurabh Patel, who is the son-in-law of Ramnik Ambani, the elder brother of the late Dhirubhai Ambani.
The suave Saurabh Patel was the only English-speaking minister and also the government's industry-friendly face. He has been widely credited for the former Modi government's forays in solar energy in the state.There was intense speculation that Saurabh Patel may get a national role to play.Dalit face and Social Justice Minister Ramanlal Vora was also dropped, reportedly for non-performance.Another minister who lost the job was Minister of State for Home Rajni Patel, reportedly for his inept handling of the 10-month Patel agitation. His own house and office in north Gujarat were attacked twice by Patels.Vasumatiben Trivedi, the only woman minister in the government of Anandiben, Gujarat's first woman chief minister, was also sacked. Nirmala Wadhwani from Ahmedabad has been included in her place.Anandiben Patel had earlier resigned as Chief Minister citing her age, two months earlier than attaining the age of 75, in line with an unwritten code for ministers in the BJP. But BJP sources maintained she was asked to quit in the wake of the Dalit unrest and the dragging street protests by the Patels - the traditional constituency of the party - demanding job quotas.
New Chief Minister Rupani avoided all questions about the priorities of the government and how he proposed to tackle the vexed issue of Patels and Dalits, which hit the BJP hard."The swearing-in has just been done. The government will start work tomorrow and together decide on all matters and the new policies," Rupani told the media. His deputy Nitin Patel, the senior most minister in the previous cabinet, said all the initiatives of the Anandiben government would continue and strategies would be made to address all the key issues facing Gujarat.The exit of Anandiben Patel, who is known to have had strained relations with Amit Shah, and the incoming of the Rupani ministry comes ahead of assembly elections due in the state next year.Amit Shah, veteran L.K. Advani, who represents Gandhinagar in the Lok Sabha, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley, Chief Ministers Manohar Lal Khattar of Haryana and Devendra Fadnavis of Maharashtra besides Anandiben Patel attended the ceremony.