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Modi rath faces stones on Vaghela turf

Ahmedabad, Aug. 27: The threat of a little-known organisation, Bhathi Sena, has raised fears of trouble during Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi’s Gaurav Yatra.

The Sena, an organisation of kshatriyas — the community to which Shankersinh Vaghela belongs — has decided to block the yatra that the BJP is determined to launch on September 3 from Phagvel in Kheda district, which is the Congress state president’s Lok Sabha constituency.

The plan to take out the yatra was discussed at length last night at the first meeting of the BJP’s Gujarat election committee headed by former chief minister Keshubhai Patel at his residence in Gandhinagar. The meeting was attended, among other members, by BJP spokesman Arun Jaitley, the party’s Gujarat in-charge, Ramadas Aggrawal, Union textiles minister Kashiram Rana and the chief minister.

By launching the yatra from Phagvel, Modi has challenged his archrival in his stronghold — something Vaghela has been doing for more than a month. The Congress state president has held meetings in the BJP stronghold of Deesa in north Gujarat, Khadia in Ahmedabad, and Surat, where BJP workers burnt the podium after the meeting was over on August 9.

Congress sources do not rule out stone pelting during Modi’s yatra. Vaghela loyalists are not going to remain silent spectators, they say. The Congress leader said the party has no plan to thwart the campaign. “But there are some local people who are definitely going to oppose the yatra,” added Vaghela.

Gujarat BJP president Rajendrasinh Rana said the focus of last night’s meeting was the Gaurav Rath Yatra “which is now part of our election campaign”. The yatra, he said would go ahead, adding “there is no question of postponing or cancelling the yatra”. The yatra had earlier been called off in July after the National Human Rights Commission objected and several political parties urged the Prime Minister to stop it.

While Rana says he does not apprehend trouble during the yatra, Modi has asked party workers to frustrate the Bhathi Sena’s move to block the yatra. After the meeting, Jaitley said the condition in Gujarat is normal.

Asked whether Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had given permission to organise the yatra, Rana said: “This is not required. We do not have to seek permission to launch the yatra. It is entirely our programme.”

Growing differences between Modi and his predecessor Keshubhai Patel also plague the yatra. As per the plan, Patel is to flag off the yatra as deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani is keeping away from programmes that may whip up communal passion. However, Modi said Patel would not be in Phagvel on September 3 as “he is going abroad”.

Rana, however, asserted: “He (Advani) was never supposed to come to flag off the Yatra. It is essentially a state unit programme, which is part of our election campaign.”

New state team

Rana has reconstituted the state unit of the party, reports PTI. It now has a president, five vice-presidents, three general secretaries, five secretaries, a treasurer and a party spokesman and excludes the heads of various party cells and a office secretary of the state unit headquarters.

The chief minister is trying to rope in Venkaiah Naidu to flag off the yatra, but the BJP president has not given his consent as yet.

The basic purpose of taking out yatra, explained Rana, is to highlight the BJP government’s achievements during its four-and-a-half year rule. The focus of the campaign “will be to educate the people” on how anti- Gujarat forces maligned and defamed the people of the state after the post-Godhra violence. The party plans to reiterate its commitment to protect the common man as a reason for the BJP to be re-elected.

Rana said some “minor” changes will take place in the party, but these will not be effected now. Apart from him, Patel and Modi are to remain at the helm of affairs of the Gujarat BJP, he said.

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