The stage is set for swearing in Narendra Modi as Gujarat Chief Minister for the third time in a row here on Wednesday.
The ceremony at the 20,000-seat capacity Sardar Patel Stadium will be attended by BJP leaders including L.K. Advani, Sushma Swaraj and Arun Jaitley, and workers. The Chief Ministers of Tamil Nadu (Jayalalithaa), Punjab (Parkash Singh Badal) and of all National Democratic Alliance-ruled States except Bihar are likely to attend. (Nitish Kumar of the Janata Dal-United has reservations about Mr. Modi being projected as the NDA’s prime ministerial candidate.)
Efforts are being made to get Orissa Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik of the Biju Janata Dal and even Nationalist Congress Party veteran Sharad Pawar to participate in the event but there is no confirmation as yet whether they would attend.
Meanwhile, Mr. Modi keeps his cards close to his chest on who may be sworn in as ministers along with him. A meeting of BJP MLAs will be held on Tuesday to elect the Leader of the House.
It is believed that the new Cabinet will be bigger than what it was under Mr. Modi’s previous term — 30 — so as to accommodate legislators considering their caste representation. However, informed sources say, given the mandate he has got, Mr. Modi may pick the MLAs with whom he has good equations. “But then, with Narendrabhai around, your guess is as good as mine,” chuckled a BJP leader.
In the rival camp, the Congress is in a fix over who will be the State party chief and the Leader of the Opposition, with both incumbents Arjun Modhwadia and Shaktisinh Gohil losing the elections.
The seniormost leader now is the former Chief Minister, Shankersinh Vaghela, who, however, is reluctant to be the Leader of the Opposition. Sources close to him say he would at best wish to be the PCC chief provided he is given a “free hand” to run the party affairs.
Many leaders in Gujarat claim that “undue interference” by the high command (read Ahmed Patel, political secretary of Congress president Sonia Gandhi) in the State affairs damaged the party’s prospects.
As for Mr. Vaghela, his former RSS background often proved a hurdle to his having a say in the party affairs, though it is a fact that as many as 20 MLAs who won the last week’s elections are from his BJP rebel group.
Mr. Vaghela did not even campaign beyond a couple of public meetings at Kapadwanj, from where he won, and instead focussed his attention across the State to demonstrate his stature. The party has added six seats to its kitty of 55 it won in 2007. In contrast, in central Gujarat, under which Kapadwanj falls, the BJP managed to secure just 20 out of 40 seats — the smallest number it got among all regions in the State.