New Delhi: Union Textile Minister and Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) firebrand leader Smriti Irani has emerged as the front runner for the post of Chief Minister in Gujarat after the recently concluded state elections.
Citing BJP sources, reports in a section of media says the party feels weak state level leadership was also one of the reasons why it could not perform as expected in the elections which it won yesterday.
In a house of 182, the BJP will have 99 MLAs as compared to 80 MLAs of the Congress. In 2012 elections fought under the leadership of Narendra Modi who later moved to New Delhi as Prime Minister, the BJP had won 117 seats.
Anandiben Patel succeeded Modi in Gujarat and later on Vijay Rupani was made Chief Minister. However, Rupani could not impress the masses. In fact while the counting of votes was on Monday, Rupani was trailing behind his Congress rival during initial rounds. He later won the cotest but not before sending some jitters in the party circle.
Overall the party had expected to win 150+ seats in the 2017 state election - in line with its performance in the 2014 General Election when it had won all the 26 Lok Sabha seats.
It is because of this, the party sources said, Smriti Irani's name is being considered for the post of Chief Minister in Gujarat so as to fill the vacuum after Modi's departure from the state.
Responding to reports however Smriti Irani refuted saying "she is not in the race" for the top post in Gujarat.
"I am definitely not a contender", she said.
Other names taking round in the local political circle is of Union Minister of State for Road Transport & Highways and Shipping Mansukh L Mandaviya. A Patidar from Saurashtra, Mandaviya is counted among leaders who are close to farmers.
Vajubhai Vala, the incumbent governor of Karnataka and former Speaker of the Gujarat Legislative Assembly, is the third candidate in contention, the sources said. A former BJP member, Vala held various portfolios like finance, labour and employment in the Gujarat Cabinet.