Setting in motion the process for picking a new Gujarat chief minister, the Bharatiya Janata Party on Wednesday gave its go ahead to incumbent Anandiben Patel to resign and authorised its president Amit Shah to pick her successor in consultation with the legislature party.
The legislature party meeting is likely to be held on Friday after Shah reaches Ahmedabad on Thursday.
Patel will tender her resignation to the Governor on Wednesday, senior party leader M Venkaiah Naidu told reporters after the BJP Parliamentary Board meeting held at the prime minister's residence.
The board appointed Union Minister Nitin Gadkari and party general secretary Saroj Pandey as central observers for the legislature party meeting in which the new leader will be formally elected.
Shah, who is an MLA in the Gujarat assembly, will also attend the meeting.
Patel's successor will be among the party's MLAs, Naidu asserted.
He also rejected reports that Shah can replace Patel, saying the party needs his leadership at the national level as he has taken it to "great heights" and led it to many successes.
No name of her successor was discussed in the board's meeting, he said.
"The Parliamentary Board gave its approval to Anandiben Patel's wish to quit. She had wished to be relieved of her responsibility as she would turn 75 soon. She has set up a great precedent for lakhs of party workers. It put on record her very good work as the chief minister and as a minister earlier," Naidu said.
She has been in the state government for over 18 years which, he noted, is perhaps unprecedented for a BJP leader. Patel, meanwhile, issued advertisements in newspapers in Ahmedabad listing the works done during her two-year tenure.
Naidu said Shah will hold consultations with the legislature party before the new leader is elected.
"Our president is also an MLA. He will be present in the meeting. He will hold consultations following which the successor will be decided," he said.
A party source said the board has authorised Shah to pick the chief ministerial nominee.
Asked about reports that Shah is a contender for the top post, he asserted, "Such a question does not arise. He is the party president and going to remain party president. The party needs his leadership at the national level. There is no such discussion at all."
Nitin Patel, the number two in the state's cabinet, and Gujarat party chief Vijay Rupani, who is also a minister, are seen as the front-runners to succeed Anandiben Patel.