Anandiben Patel was today elected leader of Gujarat BJP Legislature Party and would be the state's first woman Chief Minister as curtains came down on an eventful 12-year tenure of Narendra Modi, marked as much by commendation as by controversy and criticism.
73-year-old Patel, state's Revenue Minister and a close aide of Modi, was elected unanimously and will take oath as Chief Minister tomorrow.
Her name was proposed by Agriculture Minister Bhupendrasinh Chudasama and seconded among others by BJP general secretary Amit Shah, credited for the phenomenal success of the party in the Lok Sabha elections in Uttar Pradesh.
BJP's Central observer Thawar Chand Gehlot announced the election of Patel, who will become state's 15th Chief Minister, in the presence of Modi.
Tears rolled down Patel's eyes as she began her acceptance speech during which she thanked Modi, behind whom she stood solidly even when he was banished out to Delhi following internal strife in the BJP, and the party for giving her the important responsibility.
"I am thankful to the top BJP leaders and our PM Narendra Modi for selecting a farmer's daugther like me for such responsibilty. I studied while working in a farm and then became a teacher. When I joined BJP, I was a blank slate" said Patel in a choked voice.
"To be in politics is not easy for women. But, BJP leaders like Atalji and Advanji guided me all the way. Narendrabhai always motivated me. BJP always made sure that women don't have to face problems" said Patel, who compared Modi with Lord Krishna.
Calling Modi a "leader of the 21st century" who converted problems into opportunities, she said, "people will remember you (Modi) for many years to come. This is the first time when any CM is becoming PM. Just like lord Krishna left the banks of river Yamuna and came here, today a 'Lok-Nayak' is leaving Sabarmati and going to the banks of Yamuna."
The Modi loyalist was being seen as a natural successor to him as she headed the group of ministers tasked with the responsibility to run the state's day-to-day affairs during his hectic Lok Sabha campaign.
Patel held important portfolios of urban development, revenue and disaster management and was earlier in charge of education ministry, driving successfully some of the key Modi projects, including the one for boosting female literacy.
The choice of Patel, a former school teacher, also takes into account the BJP's social arithmetic as the community to which she belongs is the largest and most influential in the state and the backbone of its support base for over two decades.
Modi praised Patel, his trusted Cabinet colleague, saying she was the only minister to have served for sixteen years at a strech during which she successfully handled around 10 departments.
"She will be the first Chief Minister who has a gold medal in MSc and also the President's Medal," he said.
"This is for the first time that Gujarat will get a woman chief minister and I am sure that development under her will be good," Modi said.
Earlier in the day, Modi, who powered BJP to a spectacular win in the Lok Sabha polls, surmounting sustained onslaught by political opponents over the 2002 communal riots, resigned as Chief Minister and MLA before bidding an emotional farewell to the state he ran with an iron fist.
He fought back tears as he wished Gujarat to "surge ahead" after his departure from the state and sought forgiveness if he had done "anything wrong".
"Forgive me if I have done anything wrong. This is my 4th term as CM. As I am going now and don't know when I will come back here, I want you to forgive me if you have felt that I was not up to the mark in my work or there was any shortcoming in my conduct.
"Today is the day of forgiveness. I respect you all and this House. I especially thank the opposition," Modi, said in a voice filled with emotions as members of the Gujarat assembly bid him farewell at a special session.