New Delhi, Nov. 21: Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani has asked BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu to resolve the crisis arising from the rebellion in Gujarat without wasting time.
Alarmed at the growing dissidence resulting from denial of tickets to important aspirants or keeping local leaders like former minister Haren Pandya in suspense, a high-level meeting was convened today at Advani’s residence.
Advani, said BJP sources, stressed to Naidu that the Gujarat polls would be a “turning point” for the party and, therefore, he should immediately contain the dissidence. As the party released its third list of 12 names, there was no mention of Pandya nor was another nominee announced from his Ellis Bridge seat.
Sources said caretaker chief minister Narendra Modi was bent on denying Pandya a ticket because he suspected the former minister of deposing before a citizen’s tribunal inquiring into the post-Godhra riots and “leaking” details which established the administration’s alleged complicity. The other problem Modi has with Pandya, who was home minister in Keshubhai Patel’s Cabinet, is that he is a staunch loyalist of the former chief minister.
But sources close to Advani said he and other central leaders, including Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Naidu, are in favour of mollifying Pandya with a ticket after his supporters reportedly put up an “impressive” show of strength yesterday. At today’s meeting, Advani was quoted by sources as saying: “We cannot afford to be too rigid.”
Modi’s stand, the sources said, is that if the BJP cannot deal with the rebellion now, how would it cope with similar problems in the future' The subtext is that Modi does not want a potential challenger.
Advani also expressed the fear that it is “not the question of one Ellis Bridge seat or one Pandya” but that if he is left out, it could have a “ripple effect”. The sources admitted that the central command is becoming “increasingly impatient” with Modi’s projection of himself as the only key figure in Gujarat and giving the impression that everyone else, including Vajpayee and Advani, is “superfluous”.
Even the efforts of Modi’s closest friend, BJP general secretary Arun Jaitley, to make him soften his stand on Pandya failed. Jaitley was rushed to Gandhinagar on Tuesday, but sources said he returned “empty-handed”. ( )
The other seat the BJP is worried about is Godhra. Modi’s choice is Haresh Bhatt, a VHP activist who has joined the party. But an influential leader and Rajya Sabha member until recently, Gopalsinh Solanki, is up in arms.