Bhupendra Patel, Bharatiya Janata Party MLA, was unanimously elected BJP legislature party leader on Sunday. He is set to become the next chief minister of Gujarat. The 59-year-old’s name was proposed by former CM Vijay Rupani, who resigned from his post on Saturday.

At the party legislature meeting, most of the 112 MLAs of the party in the 182-member Assembly were present.

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Patel won the 2017 Gujarat Legislative Assembly elections from Ghatlodia constituency, defeating Congress candidate Shashikant Patel by over one lakh votes, the highest winning margin in the 2017 Gujarat polls.

Following his appointment, congratulatory messages poured in.

“I congratulate Bhupendra Patel on his appointment as chief minister of Gujarat,” Vijay Rupani said.

“It is very good that Bhupendra Patel has been chosen to be the new Gujarat CM. Now BJP coming back to power in Gujarat is certain,” senior BJP leader Subramanian Swamy said.

Bhupendra Patel holds a diploma in civil engineering and is considered close to former CM Anandiben Patel, who won from the seat in the 2012 polls.

“I congratulate Shri @Bhupendrapbjp ji for being chosen to lead Gujarat. I am sure Bhupendra Patel ji will be able to give shape to PM Shri @NarendraModi ji’s vision of continued development and growth for Gujarat,” Bhupendra Yadav, Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change of India, said.

The new leader will meet the governor and stake claim to form the government, sources said.

BJP’s central observers Narendra Singh Tomar and Prahlad Joshi and party general secretary Tarun Chaug were present at the legislature party meet.

Tomar met state BJP chief CR Paatil on Sunday morning.

Bhupendra Patel’s name was not in the long list of probables being discussed in state political circles and in a way the first term MLA emerged as the dark horse, a political observer said.

He belongs to the influential Patel community. Mandaviya is from Patidar community.

Rupani (65) on Saturday resigned from the post, his sudden announcement coming over a year before the state goes to polls.

It is not clear what prompted the development in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state where elections to the 182-member Assembly are due in December 2022.

Rupani, the fourth chief minister to demit office in BJP-ruled states during the coronavirus pandemic, was sworn in as chief minister – his second stint as CM – in December 2017.