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Machetes out for Modi
- Half of Gujarat MLAs seek ouster

New Delhi/Ahmedabad, May 27: A rebellion is rocking the chair of Narendra Modi, the Sangh parivar poster boy who gambled on a tirade against Sonia Gandhi and lost.

Almost half of the BJP’s MLAs in the Gujarat Assembly are said to have demanded the ouster of Modi in the aftermath of the party’s electoral reverses in the state.

As many as 62 of the 127 MLAs, gathered at a birthday party organised by BJP leader A.K. Patel in Gandhinagar, demanded a change in leadership, according to dissident leaders.

The disgruntled MLAs, including those from the camp of Keshubhai Patel whom Modi had toppled as chief minister, have complained that he has become too arrogant and autocratic in his functioning.

Over the last one week, the rebels had met state BJP chief Rajendrasinh Rana and told him about the “insulting” treatment the chief minister’s office meted out to them.

“Nobody is listening to the MLAs. Their work is not being done and they are unhappy and demanding a change of leadership,” said Purushottam Solanki, the Bhavnagar legislator at the head of the revolt.

The dissidence was sparked after the Congress wrested seven seats (raising its tally to 12) from the BJP in the general elections, dealing a blow to the ruling party that had 21 seats in 1999. After the elections, several party leaders had blamed Modi’s frequent outbursts against Sonia as one of the reasons for the poll setback.

“Wrestling match has started and referee will have to come from Delhi,” former minister Mahendra Trivedi said at Patel’s party.

Former chief minister Suresh Mehta has rushed to Delhi to discuss the situation with BJP chief M. Venkaiah Naidu and general secretary (organisation) Sanjay Joshi.

The BJP central leadership, however, is in a bind over whether to replace the “Hindutva mascot”, who is increasingly being seen as a political liability, or to wait for the unlikely event of a dismissal by the Congress-led Centre. The BJP high command is expected to take a decision after June 10, when the Assembly session will end.

But the political weather in Delhi is turning hot. Railway minister Laloo Prasad Yadav has promised to study the Godhra train-attack probe report to “get at the truth” of the incident that triggered the communal riots.

A Congress delegation is also expected to call on the President and the Prime Minister to make a representation of the Modi government’s “misdeeds” and demand he be tried for “genocide”. The CPM will launch a “Modi sarkar hatao” campaign.

Even allies such as the Shiv Sena and the Telugu Desam Party have gone on record blaming media reports on the riots for the NDA’s electoral rout.

Modi is believed to have threatened to resign. He apparently confided to a minister yesterday that he is “not interested in continuing” as chief minister “if things go on like this”.

State party general secretary Jayanti Barot, however, issued a statement denying Modi offered to resign.

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