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Wedding hits yatra

New Delhi, Aug. 28: The much-touted “show of unity” the Gujarat BJP was to have put up on the first day of Narendra Modi’s Gaurav Yatra has run into trouble with former chief minister Keshubhai Patel deciding to stay out of it.

Patel has left for Antwerp to attend a wedding and will not be around for the September 3 yatra that he was supposed to flag off. The BJP has now asked its general secretary and former Uttar Pradesh chief minister Rajnath Singh to kickstart Modi’s road show. The BJP had hoped that Patel’s presence would send a “positive” message to the cadre about unity in the parivar before the Assembly elections.

With controversies dogging the yatra — it was called off the first time Modi had planned it — BJP sources admitted central leaders were wary of being openly associated with it. L.K. Advani was to have inaugurated the first yatra, slated to take off in July. However, after the Opposition and human rights groups protested, the Prime Minister intervened and forced Modi to call it off.

The high command also considers Modi’s diatribe against J.M. Lyngdoh an “embarrassment” and fears it can fuel perception that the party is in a confrontationist mood against constitutional bodies.

Delhi has, therefore, decided to stay away and let Modi’s show remain all-Gujarat affair.

Sources close to Modi, however, sought to downplay Patel’s absence, saying Singh would send the “right” signal to the Kshatriya constituents of Phagvel in Kheda district from where the yatra is set to roll. The area, which is a stronghold of Congress leader Shankersinh Vaghela, was chosen deliberately to prove that Modi has caused a dent in his following.

Gujarat BJP sources, however, said the presence of Singh, a Rajput from Uttar Pradesh, would mean little to the Kshatriyas. Singh is yet to make a mark nationally, one of them pointed out.

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