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Dilip Parikh will succeed Vaghela as Gujarat CM

Industry Minister Dilip Parikh, who was unanimously elected leader of Rashtriya Janata Party on Monday evening, will be sworn in as the Gujarat chief minister on Tuesday morning. He will replace Shankarsinh Vaghela.

Soon after the election, Parikh and Vaghela called on Governor Krishnapal Singh and apprised him of the change in the RJP leadership.

Addressing the media later, Parikh said Congress legislature party leader Amarsinh Choudhary and state Congress president C D Patel have accepted his candidature for the chief minister's post.

Refuting rumours that he would be ''remote controlled by Vaghela'', the new RJP legislature party leader told Rediff On the Net, ''Going by my experience as his ministerial colleague, I can say without hesitation that Vaghela never interferes in our work. He is not a dictator as many people think.''

Replying to a question on Vaghela's role in the ministry, Parikh said, ''He is our party leader and I accept him as my leader. He will guide us in future and we are all with him.''

As for his strategy vis-a-vis the Congress, he said he would work in tandem with the party and the independents to ''accomplish the unfinished agenda of Vaghela''.

Disclosing that Vaghela's team would be retained, Parikh said a decision on cabinet expansion would be taken later.

As for Revenue Minister Atmaram Patel, who was also in the race for the chief minister's post, Parikh said, ''No, he will not revolt against the party. In fact, it was Atmaramji who seconded my nomination.''

Asked why the decision went in his favour, Parikh remarked in a lighter vein, ''Probably, because I am one of the senior-most members in the party and I have never been controversial.''

Earlier, Vaghela resigned as the RJP legislature party leader to enable the party legislators to elect a new leader.

Vaghela, whom the RJPLP had endorsed as its leader on Saturday, gave up his intransigence on Sunday and said he would step down in favour of a leader of the Congress's choice.

The RJP then put forth Parikh and Atmaram Patel's names to the Congress, for its approval.

The Congress had made Vaghela's replacement -- ala H D Deve Gowda -- with a leader acceptable to it as the condition to restore support to the RJP government.

Vaghela could no longer convince the Congress, using the BJP card. Though Vaghela's ministerial colleagues on Sunday warned that the Congress-RJP tiff would bring back the BJP to power, the high command refused to budge. A Congress leader said, ''Our aggressive reaction forced RJP state president Madhusudan Mistry to call me up on Sunday evening. I told him that we would vote against the RJP in the assembly on Tuesday, if it retained Vaghela as its leader.''

Unlike Vaghela, his successor is likely to be under the Congress's control. Congress sources said the party may keep tabs on the government through a joint steering committee.

The RJP's volte face, coming barely 24 hours after it rejected the Congress demand for a change of leadership, will save its tottering government and dash the BJP's hopes of regaining power in the state.

Contrary to the BJP's official stand against forming a government in the state, the party stepped up its efforts in installing a saffron government in the state. Six top BJP leaders, including former chief minister Keshubhai Patel and state party chief Vajubhai Vala, flew to Delhi on Sunday to meet party president Lal Kishinchand Advani, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Khushbhau Thakre.

On his return from Delhi on Monday, Patel said, ''Besides taking stock of the present situation, we discussed certain alternatives to end the existing political crisis.''

Asked if the BJP was in the race for power, Patel said, ''We are closely watching the situation, but we still think elections are the best solution to the crisis.''

Replying to a question on the possibility of the Atmaram Patel group rejoining the BJP, he quipped, '''Why only Atmaram? There are other groups also.''

In the 182-member house, the BJP has 76 members, the RJP 46, the Congress 44, Independents 15. One seat is vacant.

Meanwhile, 14 independents, who have backed the government till now, are holding a meeting to decide whether to support the new leader. Their representative said that neither the BJP nor the RJP had approached the independents for support.

RJP stands by Vaghela, cocks a snook at Congress
Gujarat govt seeks vote of confidence on Tuesday
Gujarat govt totters past one-year mark
'If they tell me to become chief minister, I am ready to accept'
MJP may switch chief ministers to keep Congress happy
A prickly marriage of convenience
Congress withdraws support to Vaghela govt

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