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Anti-Modi rebels raise the pitch on election-eve
Naina Patel in Gandhinagar and Sheela Bhatt in New Delhi | October 02, 2007 18:29 IST
The Bharatiya Janata Party rebels are all set to come out in the open to defeat their party candidates in the upcoming assembly polls in Gujarat.
The battle against Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi is taking a such a serious turn that the Sardar Patel Utkarsh Samiti, an informal platform of powerful Patels and anti-Modi factions, will be deployed.
In an exclusive interview to rediff.com, former Gujarat chief minister Suresh Mehta said, "In the coming election, we will go to people under the umbrella of Sardar Patel Utkarsh Samiti and campaign against the Modi government."
In sessions that took place in last five days in Gandhinagar, the BJP's anti-Modi faction chalked out plans to defy the party without leaving it. According to former Union minister Vallabhbhai Kathiria, rebel Keshubhai Patel will not leave the BJP of his own. He said it is the party he had built with his blood and tears.
He said, "Last week he met our president Rajnath Singh, but nothing positive came out. Keeping in mind the long-term future of the party, we will ensure the defeat of bad elements in our party."
The party's top leadership is going slow in taking action against the rebels even as it is divided on the issue.
Recently, Keshubhai Patel gave a hard-hitting interview against Modi in Abhiyaan, a Gujarati weekly in which he compared Modi's Gujarat to Hitler's [Images] Germany [Images]. Still, Rajnath Singh evaded the issue when we sought his reaction. He just smiled and said, "Yes, I have seen it."
Of late, Modi is facing embarrassment because the party is treading cautiously in taking discipline action against stalwarts in the state ranged against him.
Last Sunday, in a party organised by Arun Jaitley, BJP leaders and office-bearers seemed divided on taking action against Keshubhai and other senior leaders for abusing Modi like never before.One of the party spokesmen, who seems to have a soft corner for rebels, said, "What Keshubhai said is the truth."
Though six leaders were suspended some time ago, the party is wary of taking action against Keshubhai Patel despite his outbursts against the Modi government and the damaging interview.
It's perceived that Kolis (20 per cent of the population) and Patels (14 pc), who form more than one-third of the electorate, may get alienated and vote against the party if harsh action is taken against the rebels. Kathiria asked,"Why is the party not sacking us if they think we have crossed the Lakshman Rekha [Images]?"
The BJP rebels are even talking to the Congress, the Nationalist Congress Party and Uma Bharti's outfit Bharatiya Janashakti Party.
The rebels brazenly talk about ensuring the win of Independents and Congress candidates. Kathiria said, "We have to ensure the removal of this dictator with the help of the voters. We have to purify the party to ensure a better future. We are preparing to sit in the Opposition."
Sources in Gandhinagar said some rebels would stand as Independents, while the leaders would campaign for rival candidates belonging to different parties. A last-minute patch-up between Modi and his opponents is not ruled out, though.
Some BJP rebels like Dhirubhai Gajera and his associates are toying with the idea of joining the Congress, but so far they haven't been able to get a good bargain.