Gandhinagar: Vijay Rupani, a confidante of BJP chief Amit Shah, will be the Gujarat chief minister for a second term, with the state BJP legislature party today unanimously electing him as its leader.

The announcement was made by Union minister Arun Jaitley, the party's central observer, after a meeting of state BJP legislature party here. "A proposal to elect Rupani as leader of state BJP
legislature party and Patel as deputy leader of state legislature party has been adopted," Jaitley told a press conference. Patel is the incumbent deputy chief minister. Though the BJP retained power in the key western state or a record sixth straight term, there was speculation about Rupani's continuance due to the party's narrow victory over challenger Congress.

The BJP won 99 seats in the 182-member Assembly, the first time its tally slipped below hundred since 1995, while the Congress clocked its best in many years clinching 77. Together with its allies, the Congress has the backing of 80 MLAs. Rupani's proximity to the top party leadership, his clean and caste neutral image apparently tilted the scales in his favour.

Jaitley said the central observers, including BJP general secretary Saroj Pandey, asked the MLAs for names for the post of the leader and deputy leader of the legislature party, and one of them--Bhupendra Sinh Chudasama-- suggested Rupani and Patel for the posts. Five others backed Chudasama's proposal.

The Union minister said he asked the MLAs to come up with more names for the two top posts, but as nobody came forward, Rupani and Patel were declared elected as the leader and deputy leader of the legislature party. Asked why was there the suspense over who would be the next chief minister, Jaitley said, it was a media creation. He said Rupani will hold consultations with elected MLAs before forming the new government. Rupani, he said, will meet Governor O P Kohli and finalise the date for the swearing-in. PTI