| Modi: Feeling the heat
May 28: The Sangh parivar sprang to Narendra Modi’s defence and the BJP ruled out replacing him a day after almost half of the party’s MLAs in Gujarat demanded the chief minister’s removal.
Party president M. Venkaiah Naidu said in Delhi that there was “no proposal or decision” to sack Modi and warned dissidents against going to the media.
Backing up words with action, the party issued a showcause notice to Purushottam Solanki, the MLA heading the revolt. He has been asked to explain within 24 hours his comments against Modi and hand in a written apology.
Yesterday, 62 of the party’s 127 MLAs had come together at a birthday party and sought Modi’s ouster, according to dissident leaders. Solanki announced that the MLAs were unhappy with the chief minister and wanted a change in leadership. He was not available for comment today.
“I have advised all of them that the Assembly session is on and they should help the government in countering the Opposition criticism. If there is any problem, we can sit and discuss it,” Naidu said. “I have told them that statements given to the media are neither in the interest of the party nor in their interest.”
Earlier, BJP leader L.K. Advani said the party president was holding talks with state leaders and the matter would be sorted out.
The RSS, the VHP and the Bajrang Dal rushed to the rescue of the Sangh parivar poster boy. “Gujarat riots are in no way connected to BJP’s recent defeat in the Lok Sabha polls,” RSS spokesperson Ram Madhav said.
The dissidence was sparked after the Congress wrested seven seats from the BJP in the general elections, bringing down the ruling party’s tally from 21 in 1999 to 14.
The VHP and the Bajrang Dal issued a joint statement calling for a halt to the dissident activities. “Such (political) developments that are causing instability will only strengthen the hands of politicians appeasing Muslims, jihadi fundamentalists, pseudo-secularists and those non-government organisations that are using foreign funds for religious conversions,” it said.
Naidu said he was in touch with Modi and state party president Rajendrasinh Rana and that Solanki, who is the MLA from Bhavnagar, had called him and apologised.
The rebel leader sought a meeting with Modi today but was denied an appointment. The chief minister, however, did meet other MLAs to ask what he could do for them in an attempt to shake off the “autocratic” tag and show he is approachable.
Rana admitted that the “situation is very serious” but ruled out an immediate change of guard. A strong critic of Modi, the state BJP chief did not attend the birthday party hosted by Rajya Sabha MP A.K. Patel yesterday where the dissidents had gathered.
Asked if the rebel MLAs could be charged with anti-party activities before Naidu directed him to issue the notice to Solanki, Rana had said: “MPs and MLAs are not under the purview of (the) state president.”
Rana, who is an MP, said Gujarat MPs will be meeting the central leadership in Delhi next week when the Parliament session begins. He has been in constant touch with Delhi over the past week.
Although the dissidence is being blamed on supporters of Keshubhai Patel, who Modi had toppled as chief minister, several other leaders, including Kashiram Rana and Suresh Mehta, are reported to have joined hands against the Gujarat chief minister. Mehta met Naidu today.
But with the BJP leadership taking a tough line against dissidents, Mehta downplayed the revolt. “It is an internal matter of the party and will be settled in no time. Already it has started subsiding,” he said. Solanki’s comments have been “blown out of proportion”, he added.