AHMEDABAD: A day after Gujarat chief minister Anandiben Patel announced her decision to quit, speculations are rife on who will succeed her ahead of the 2017 Assembly polls, overcoming the grim challenges on its way to maintain the over two decades of winning spree in the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
Though the decision is to be taken at the "highest level" of the BJP leadership, the names doing the rounds as potential successor to Anandiben include the "number two" in the cabinet and health minister Nitin Patel, state BJP chief Vijay Rupani, Union minister Purshottam Rupala and Assembly speaker Ganpat Vasava, a tribal leader.
Sections in the ranks also wish the party's national president Amit Shah to take over the reins of the state to revive the saffron party's sagging fortunes.
Nitin Patel, a front runner for the CM's post, when asked about his chances, responded with the stock reply that the central leadership will take the decision and every one will accept it.
When the question was put to Rupani, he said whatever responsibilities the party entrusts him, he will shoulder it.
However, sources in the party said the final decision in this regard will be taken at the highest level and at present, one can not hazard a guess on who was the favourite.
Anandiben's resignation at this stage will give the new chief minister time of over one year to make his mark before the 2017 elections, scheduled to be held in the end of that year.
In a surprise move, Patel, who was in the midst of several challenges, announced her decision to step down yesterday, saying it was time for new leadership to take over as she was soon going to turn 75.
As soon as she made her decision public by taking to Facebook, Shah said in New Delhi that her successor will be chosen by the party's parliamentary board, which, according to sources, will meet soon.
Under the leadership of Patel, who has been a minister in the BJP government since 1998 and was made the CM in 2014, the BJP for the first time in the post-Narendra Modi era in Gujarat has faced a tough challenge from its opponents.
She had to put up with some upsets as BJP fared badly in the rural civic bodies polls in December 2015 and the opposition Congress making handsome gains at the cost of its saffron rival.
She also had to face the fierce Patel community quota agitation, one of the factors which contributed to BJP losing in the rural local bodies polls, while retaining its hold on the urban areas.
Recently, the Dalit uprising after the Una thrashing incident had also dented the party's image. Graft charges levelled against Anandiben's daughter Anar Patel by opposition Congress only added to her woes.