While several exit polls are predicting a clear victory for BJP in the Gujarat Assembly elections, not many are betting on who will be the next CM. There are many who believe that there may be a change of guard even if the BJP comes back to power. The race is also wide open in case the Congress pulls off a surprise win.Rupani was a surprise pick as CM after Anandiben Patel’s abrupt resignation last year. Rupani has done fairly well, and his tenure has largely been controversy-free, but in spite of the party showing faith in him, it is not certain that he will be leading the government once the results are announced.”If BJP wins more than 150 seats, it would mean that Patel community has strongly supported the party. In such a situation, the party is likely to install a Patel leader as the CM. This would tip the scale in favour of someone like (deputy CM) Nitin Patel or Bhikhubhai Dalsania, another non-controversial leader,” said a BJP leader requesting anonymity.Some others see Union minister Mansukh Mandaviya, who too is a Patel, as one of the contenders.CM Vijay Rupani’s comments in an exclusive interview with DNA before the elections that he would be happy with the role assigned to him also sparked off speculations. “I never expected any position. I have been saying since the day I was appointed CM that I am here to play a 20-20 match. Our high command will take a call on the issue,” Rupani had said.However, what could work in Rupani’s favour is that he remains grounded, and his tenure has been free of controversies.”Our national president Amit Shah has repeatedly said that Vijay Rupani will be CM and Nitin Patel deputy CM. The BJP has absolute clarity on this,” BJP’s Gujarat in-charge Bhupender Yadav, said.In case the Congress wins, a host of party leaders would be in the race for the CM’s post.Gujarat Congress president Bharatsinh Solanki is seen as a contender for the post even though he did not contest in the elections. The fact that he had served as Union minister in the UPA government, and comes from a political family, hands him the advantage.Senior Congress leader and son of former CM Chimanbhai Patel, Siddharth Patel, who contested from Dabhoi seat, is also seen as a potential candidate for the top post. He is a Patidar, and if Congress wins, it would be to a great extent to support from the Patidar community.Two-term MLA Paresh Dhanani, who too belongs to the Patidar community, and one of the vocal critics of BJP government, could be a pick for CM if the party wins.Senior MLA Shaktisinh Gohil, who had served as minister in an earlier Congress government in the state, too seen by many as a potential chief ministerial candidate. He is the Congress’s national spokesperson, and had served as leader of opposition.
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