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Anti-Modi campaign intensifies, MLA asks for change of guard

August 16, 2005 23:59 IST
Last Updated: August 17, 2005 00:12 IST

The campaign to oust Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi on Tuesday got some boost with at least 39 legislators, six members of Parliament and hundreds of party workers teaming up at the house of senior party leader Keshubhai Patel and one of them openly asking for 'a change in leadership'.

The major show of strength for Keshubhai was scheduled on Tuesday as he just returned from the United States after his wife Leelaben underwent a heart surgery.

MLA from Amreli district Bechar Badhani did not mince words when he told mediapersons waiting outside Keshubhai's house that, "We want a change in the political helm of affairs in Gujarat."

However, even though Badhani did not say anything more, his words were almost echoed by another MLA Yogesh Patel of Vadodara who wrote a letter to Modi on Monday telling him that there were several 'unhappy' MLAs in Gujarat Bharatiya Janata Party and that he (Modi) should look into their concerns.

Keshubhai himself did not name anybody, but to a question if he had heard that some of his supporters were told not to come to his house (to inquire on his wife's health), he said that he had also heard of this and it just showed the narrow mind of those who attempted to dissuade his supporters.

Giving more hints at the brewing dissent within the party, senior leader Kashiram Rana said, "MLAs have expressed
their feelings (to Keshubhai) and discussion on the issue will be held in coming days. About 60 MLAs came in
support of Keshubhai and this number will increase."

Incidentally among the MLAs who visited Keshubhai's house is Tapu Limbasiya, an MLA who was recently inducted into Modi's ministry.

However, none of the MLAs of the Modi-faction or any of his cabinet colleagues came to Keshubhai's house to ask about his wife's health.

Though the MLAs initially downplayed their visit to the former chief minister's house, they took the opportunity to appraise Keshubhai about the Gordhan Zadafiya issue and the developments in the party during his US visit.

The dissidents are particularly sore over the timing that Modi chose to expand the cabinet -- when Patel, his staunch opponent was in US for personal reasons and hence, they were waiting anxiously for the arrival of Patel to decide their next move.

Even a mandap was erected for the visiting MLAs, MPs and concerned party workers.

Among those who visited Keshubhai's house since Tuesday morning include Gordhan Zadafiya, Bhavin Sheth, Dhanraj Kella, Dilip Patel, Bechar Badhani, Bharat Pandya, Maya Kodnani, Bimal Shah, MP Soma Ganda and Tapu Limbasiya who was recently sworn into Modi's expanded cabinet. 

This time's dissident activity was triggered after Zadafiya, a known Modi critic and staunch supporter of Keshubhai, had openly refused a cabinet berth and also aired his view to the media following which he was issued a show cause notice by the party.

This action was not welcomed by several senior party leaders including former chief minister Suresh Mehta, who in a written request to state party president Vaju Vala demanded withdrawal of the notice issued to Zadafiya.

However, the state party remained adamant and after getting Zadafiya's reply said that the 'matter was over'.

Speculation over the show of strength and the role of the Sangh Parivar in this matter ran high since early Tuesday morning with Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Pravin Togadia also visiting Keshubhai's house.

He however downplayed the purpose of his visit and said that he had gone only to inquire the health of Leelaben who was a motherly figure to him.

Meanwhile, five MLAs Parsatambhai Bhajani, K T Bhil, Praveenbhai Rathod, Harshadbhai Vasava and Vajubhai Dodiya in a fax later made it clear that they were not among the rebel MLAs as mentioned by the media.

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