SAMPLE THIS: “I
will draw the sword if needed. Patience has run out. There is a mini-emergency
in Gujarat. Nobody can speak the truth. MLAs and party leaders who assert
their opinion are considered rebels. We are called power-hungry just
because we are against the party succumbing to the whims of an individual.”
“The leadership has turned a blind eye to the state of affairs
in Gujarat. I will not campaign for the party (in the December Assembly
No, this isn’t a disgruntled MLA but the grand old man of the
Gujarat BJP, Keshubhai Patel. Patel, who has recently been lending the
growing number of the party’s Modi-fatigued leaders a stable shoulder
to cry on, has come out in the open for the first time against the chief
minister and the party high command, LK Advani, Arun Jaitley and Om
“Let them take action against us, we have resolved to campaign
against the party’s candidates in the coming Assembly elections.
We believe the people of Gujarat are our high command, not those sitting
in Delhi.” And this is former Chief Minister Suresh Mehta, known
as the most stoic face of the Gujarat BJP.
The decibel levels are rising in Gujarat with a wave of protest against
Modi’s “autocratic style of functioning” all set to
throw up a spate of resignations by party bigwigs, including Patel and
Mehta, and at least a dozen MLAs. With less than two months to the all-important
Assembly polls, the rebellion, brewing for over a year, is clearly snowballing.
“This is going to be a referendum election. Modi or No Modi. We
are determined to throw him out even if we have to stake our political
careers for it. If the high command is bent on keeping him at any cost,
we’ll pull out all stops to see the back of him,” asserts
a senior leader. Although he doesn't wish to be identified “at
this stage”, his words encapsulate the mood in the dissident camp.
Several MLAs — former, sitting and the seven suspended —
are set to contest on Congress tickets while yet others intend to jump
into the fray as Independents under arrangements with the Congress by
which it will not field candidates there.
The goal is clear, the means are being debated, negotiated and fine-tuned.
four options the rebels are examining:
• To remain
within the party and defeat its official candidates — not so easy.
• To join the Congress, which many of them would be glad to do.
• To contest as Independents with Congress support — also
on the anvil.
• To float their own party. This seems the least viable option.
A third party has never succeeded in Gujarat and though Mayawati has
announced her intention to contest all seats, few have shown much inclination
to join her.
Keshubhai is likely
to quit the party, but he is yet to decide his next move. Sources close
to him say he is unlikely to contest on a Congress ticket, but his resignation
will definitely have its impact.
Suresh Mehta, in all probability, will quit to contest as an Independent
from his home district of Kutch; so will Gordhan Zadaphia, who was Modi's
Minister of State for Home during the 2002 riots. He is likely to contest
from Ahmedabad city and sources claim the Congress won't field a candidate
There is also another group who are with the rebels and might remain
within the party to sabotage the prospects of the official nominees.
That is, if they are not suspended. Sitting MPs and former union ministers
Kashiram Rana and Vallabh Kathiria, MP Soma Ganda Patel, and former
MP and union minister AK Patel are some of the key names and none of
them is holding his punches.
“I don’t care if they expel me from the party, but I will
not tolerate this autocratic man any longer at any cost,” says
Kathiria, who is the Rajkot MP. Rajkot is Keshubhai Patel’s home
town, where the farmers’ convention the rebels organised drew
a crowd of over two lakh, by conservative estimate.
BEST OF all for the rebels, they have the support of the entire might
of the Sangh Parivar, including the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh (BKS), the
Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Bajrang Dal. VHP international general
secretary Praveen Togadia has already announced that his ranks would
not campaign for the BJP, while the BKS has been with the rebels in
more than a dozen successful farmer conventions they organised across
the state. Simultaneously, the rebels have been holding regular press
conferences on the theme Pol Khol, and they get widespread coverage
in the vernacular media. It may be recalled that Modi enjoyed the full
backing of the Gujarati press during the heat of 2002 and for much longer
after that. All that has now been reversed.
Asserts Suresh Mehta, “The BJP will get no more than 64 seats
— this is not just my say-so, this figure is based on ground realities
and independent surveys.” He ridi culed BJP president Rajnath
Singh’s recent statement that the party would get 150 of the 182
Assembly seats and asserted, "Whatever may be the claims of the
Modi-bhakts, the party won't get even half that number.”
During his chat with TEHELKA, Mehta predicted that the BJP would suffer
major losses in Saurashtra and Kutch, and would get only 11 of the 58
seats there. Of the 33 in North Gujarat, it would get just about 16
seats, and in the all-important central Gujarat, which used to be the
Congress bastion in the state, the BJP would win only 20 seats. In Ahmedabad
district, considered Modi's strongest base, the party will get nine
seats. And in South Gujarat, Mehta gives the BJP eight seats out of
Whether Mehta proves right or otherwise, for a leader like him to speak
out this publicly is an indication of the state of affairs in Gujarat.
While Modi has avoided any public posture over the rebellion, the high
command back in Delhi is simply ignoring the rebellion. “The anger
the rebels have expressed doesn’t represent public sentiment,
it’s about their personal aspirations which have not been met,”
say sources close to Advani. They claim Modi has tremendous public support.
Public support or not, he certainly has the high command's backing.
This was clear at a Gujarat government function in New Delhi recently,
when Advani was all praise for Modi for his “pioneering development
works and excellent governance”. And, while former Union minister
Arun Shourie spoke so enthusiastically of Modi that he claimed prime
ministerial abilities for the Gujarat CM, he also summed up what the
central leadership actually thinks of the rebels. “The answer
to the opposition to Modi lies in his own statement, Na mein khata
hoon, na khane deta hoon (neither do I take money, nor do I allow
anyone else to).” Advani was all smiles.