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Since 1st March, 1999
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Ache aids Modi, leg-up for Hindutva
(From top) Newcomers to the BJP Smriti Irani, Maneka Gandhi and Navjot Singh Sidhu at the venue. (AFP, PTI)

Mumbai, June 22: Miffed over the party rallying behind his bete noir Narendra Modi, Gujarat’s strongman and former chief minister Keshubhai Patel chose not to attend the BJP’s national executive meet, citing ill health. However, that did not prevent the Modi issue from at least being mentioned.

What Keshubhai wanted to do, Tathagata Roy, the president of the Bengal unit of the BJP, accomplished. He cited the post-Godhra communal riots as having affected the party’s electoral chances in the state as the entire Muslim community had been alienated. It was a bare mention, and nobody picked up the issue when the floor was thrown open for discussion.

“It was not picked up because everyone knows that traditionally the Muslims have never voted for us in Bengal. They are CPM voters. So what is the big issue about their polarisation'” a national executive member asked.

When the Gujarat elections results came up for discussion, the only oblique reference to Modi’s role was when the farmers’ agitation in parts of the state was mentioned. The agitation against the inability of the government to supply adequate power has been going on for nearly one-and-a-half years and is led by the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, a front organisation of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.

Although the Gujarat government’s handling of the farmers’ agitation came up for some criticism, Modi was not an issue in himself. The emphasis instead was on analysing the reasons for the shrinking and comparatively lower percentage of votes polled by the BJP, compared to the Congress.

Had Keshubhai been present, the farmers’ issue might have been taken up slightly more forcefully. He enjoys wide support among the state’s farming community.

BJP spokesperson Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, however, seemed to be testing credulity when he insisted that the reason for Keshubhai’s absence was nothing more than a bout of ill health. Keshubhai apparently cited his aching knees for not being able to reach Mumbai.

Keshubhai, whose ‘aching knees’ kept him away

A senior BJP leader tried to lighten the atmosphere by saying, “it is only pain in his knees, not in his heart”. But Keshubhai’s absence was palpable.

His absence may have actually helped the party. Had he attended the meeting, he might have been prompted to intervene when the election results of Gujarat were being discussed or when the meeting took up discussion of the political resolution tomorrow.

Attending the national executive meeting for Keshubhai might have been doubly insulting — with the party not only justifying Modi’s retention but also endorsing his brand of Hindutva.

At the meeting of the party’s national executive today, party president M. Venkaiah Naidu chose to put the entire party behind the Modi brand of Hindtuva. He not only seemed to upbraid former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee for his public analysis of the party's election defeat but also firmly reiterated the party’s adherence to Hindutva.

Modi at the meeting. (Reuters)

Naidu said there was “no question of being apologetic about Hindutva”. While admitting that the minorities were an integral part of the Indian nation, Naidu claimed that the party believed in “justice for all, appeasement for none”.

The evidence of the party consolidating support for Modi was also evident in Naidu criticising how the recent killing of alleged Pakistan-inspired “terrorists” was being viewed. He blamed “the phenomenon of competitive pseudo-secularism”.

He said: “What is shocking is that certain pseudo-secular parties and organisations are using this incident in their anti-BJP campaign and also trying to make it into a Hindu-Muslim issue. They are projecting it as a case of human rights violation, forgetting that human rights are for the protection of innocent citizens and cannot be misused for the protection of terrorists and anti-nationals.”

Naidu criticised the “audacity” of the “pseudo-secularists” in claiming that the attack on Akshardham had been stage-managed. He claimed that the party would launch a major nationwide campaign against “competitive pseudo-secularism”.

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