Vijay Rupani, 61, took oath as the Gujarat Chief Minister in state capital Gandhinagar this morning, in a ceremony that doubled as a massive show of strength by the BJP. Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who landed in Gandhinagar around 10 am, attended, as did party chief Amit Shah and all chief ministers of the BJP. Key BJP ally Bihar chief minister Nitish Kumar also attended along with his deputy Sushil Kumar Modi.
PM Modi stood on the floorboard of his car and waved to hundreds of people lining the roads as his convoy made its way from the airport to an open ground near the state secretariat, where the oath ceremony is being held.
Mr Rupani, who took oath along with 19 other ministers, visited the Akshardham temple this morning along with his wife Anjali Rupani. Immediately after Vijay Rupani, Nitin Patel took oath as deputy chief minister. The BJP had opted to repeat the duo despite a lower margin of victory in Gujarat in the assembly elections, the results for which were announced last week.
Vijay Rupani, close to Amit Shah and a leader with a clean image, was always seen as a frontrunner, especially after the BJP chief signalled earlier this year that he would continue as chief minister after the elections. But his chances of being retained for the top post were seen to diminish after the BJP won 99 seats, only seven more than it needed for a majority to form government and 16 less than it had won last time.
The Congress vastly improved its position, winning 80 seats along with allies after a campaign focused on local development, and Vijay Rupani's critics blamed him. But there are those who have pointed out that replacing Vijay Rupani would've amounted to an admission that the party has suffered a setback in Gujarat.
Party leaders, including PM Modi and Amit Shah, have emphatically said that a win in the elections and being chosen by the state again after 22 years of continuously being in power cannot in any way be seen as a setback.
But the party will carefully choose its mix of new ministers ahead of the 2019 national election, when PM Modi will seek a second term. The BJP hopes to repeat its sweep of the state; in 2014, it had won all Gujarat's 26 parliament seats.
Among the minsters who took oath today, seven are from Saurashtra, the region where the BJP lost the most in the assembly elections, six from north Gujarat, five from central Gujarat and two from south Gujarat. Mr Rupani's new cabinet will have six ministers from other backward castes (OBC), six Patels or Patidars, three tribals, two Rajputs and a Dalit, Brahmin and Jain minister each.