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Mumbai on rebel radar

Ahmedabad/New Delhi, June 20: Dissidents in Gujarat seeking Narendra Modi’s ouster are by no means despondent over the central leadership’s decision to keep him on for the time being, but the chief minister’s camp is claiming “moral victory”.

Sources said BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu would convey to the dissidents that they should “wait a while” before expecting change, but the rebel leaders were expecting the issue to be taken up at this week’s Mumbai national executive.

The dissidents, led by Keshubhai Patel, Suresh Mehta and Kashiram Rana, were earlier assured that Modi would be told to leave immediately after the Assembly session ended in mid-June. It was a signal to them that they should not raise the issue at the executive.

It is not clear if after today’s decision suggesting Modi would not be removed until after the Maharashtra elections, the rebel leaders would take that message. The dissidents pointed out that at today’s parliamentary board meeting, there was no one from Gujarat to speak on their behalf.

The situation will be different in Mumbai where former chief minister Keshubhai Patel is expected to forcefully put across the dissidents’ point of view, their grievances and the reasons for the party’s poor showing in the Lok Sabha elections.

In that case, Naidu’s assertion that the Mumbai session would be about the future could fall flat. “The tasks ahead will be discussed,” he said about the three-day session’s theme.

The parliamentary board decided to set up a committee — its members will be nominated at the executive — to study the verdict of 2004.

Modi supporters are interpreting the decision as indication that the party does not want Modi to be thrown out for the poll debacle. One of his close aides, declaring “moral victory” for the chief minister, said today’s development also showed his political clout.

While Modi spent the day closeted in his bungalow, his loyalists claimed that Atal Bihari Vajpayee had been completely isolated.

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