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LK loyalist turns dissenter

Harin Pathak at a news conference in Ahmedabad on Sunday. (PTI)

Ahmedabad, March 23: L.K. Advani loyalist and seven-time MP Harin Pathak today became the latest BJP veteran to turn dissenter after being dropped as a candidate in favour of Bollywood actor Paresh Rawal last evening.

The 66-year-old, however, stopped short of outright rebellion saying he would decide whether to contest as an Independent within three days after consulting his supporters and chief minister Narendra Modi.

Pathak, who has been representing Ahmedabad (East) since 1989, has had a tense relationship with Modi — and not just because of his proximity to Advani.

When then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee had come close to axing Modi as chief minister after the 2002 riots, Pathak’s name did the rounds as a possible replacement.

Modi’s dislike for Pathak had almost cost him the ticket even in 2009 but Advani, the then prime ministerial candidate, had intervened to get him re-nominated.

Rawal, 63, a Gujarati Brahmin, is playing Modi in a film based on the chief minister’s life and had campaigned extensively for Modi in the 2012 Assembly elections.

“I do not understand the need for this (dropping him) when Narendra Modi has a personality and when he is so popular,” Pathak said today.

“I feel the BJP is not giving due respect and importance to its senior leaders. In this respect, the Congress is a much better party,” he added, but ruled out negotiating with the Congress.

As word spread last evening, thousands of supporters gathered at Pathak’s Maninagar home to press him to quit the party and contest against Modi from Varanasi.

Modi too sent several emissaries to mollify Pathak, who claimed the chief minister had invited him. “I will be meeting him in a day or two,” Pathak, a Brahmin leader, said.

He added: “I am deeply hurt. Hundreds of my party workers are coming to me. In the next three days, I will consult my workers before deciding my future course of action.”

Pathak slammed the BJP for “inducting the Congress’s third-grade turncoats, who have noisily criticised the party (BJP) earlier and are being felicitated now”.

“Party workers are hurt and distressed as they feel that the real workers, who have given their life for the party, are being ignored.”

The reference to “real workers” was almost an echo of comments by fellow veteran Jaswant Singh yesterday, who had distinguished between “real” and “fake” BJP factions after being denied a ticket.

Bhavnagar MP Rajendrasinh Rana too has been axed because of his friendship with Modi-baiting Sangh pracharak Sanjay Joshi.

Sensing he would be denied a ticket this time, Pathak had offered his constituency to Modi but made it clear he would not give his seat up for any other candidate.

Modi, looking for a safe seat from Gujarat as insurance against a possible defeat in Varanasi, has since picked Vadodara.