The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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BJP gears up for shake-up to counter Cong

Ahmedabad, Aug. 26: The BJP is planning an organisation revamp to take on the rejuvenated Congress.

Spokesman and Gujarat in-charge Arun Jaitley, senior leader Ramdas Aggrawal and top state BJP leaders met tonight at former chief minister Keshubhai Patel’s residence in Gandhinagar to finalise the party’s poll strategy. Patel is the chairman of the newly formed election campaign committee.

Other top leaders attending the crucial meet include chief minister Narendra Modi, Union ministers Kashiram Rana, Ballab Kathiria, state unit chief Rajendrasinh Rana and general secretary Nalin Bhatt.

A party insider said the main agenda of the meeting was “organisational restructuring”. The restructuring, however, will be done only after Modi’s Gaurav rath yatra completes its first phase. The yatra’s scheduled launch is on September 3 from Pagvel in Khed district.

Sources said the changes would not be announced until the first phase of the yatra passes off peacefully as some persons who will be removed from important organisational positions are bound to resent and revolt. New state Congress chief Shankersinh Vaghela, they said, would exploit such a situation to the hilt.

A large number of former MLAs are already sulking as they have lost the privileges a sitting legislator is entitled to because of Modi’s decision to dissolve the Assembly eight months before time.

Despite Modi’s “I-don’t- care” attitude, the party is fully backing him. Although Acharya Mahapragya, the 83-year-old head of the Terapanthi sect of Jains, has told Modi to cancel the Gaurav yatra, he is determined to go ahead “come what may”.

At a gathering in the border district of Banaskantha yesterday, the chief minister reiterated his resolve. “I am determined to take out the yatra and tell the world the gaurav gatha (story of pride) of five crore people of the state. It is not the story of Godhra, Naroda Patia or Gulmarg. Gujarat was not a state of murderers-rapists as the pseudo-secularists, fanatic and power-hungry Congress leaders are attempting to project,” he said. The aim of the yatra is to check such “misleading propaganda”.

“Gujarat was the land of Lord Krishna who settled at Dwarka after annihilating the enemy with his sudarshan chakra,” Modi added.

The remarks are significant because Modi had highlighted the incident-free Jagannath rath yatra sometime back as a sign that the riot-hit state was returning to normal. Now, he wants to drive home the point that it was no flash in the pan.

Opposition parties have voiced concern that the yatra might stoke communal passions. Congress president Sonia Gandhi even wrote a letter to Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, asking him to apply the brakes on the yatra.

State unit chief Rana said: “The yatra is on. There is no question of cancelling or postponing it.” Rana also claimed that the controversy over Modi’s attack on chief election commissioner J.M. Lyngdoh was a “closed” chapter. Asked whether the chief minister would apologise for his remarks that referred to Lyngdoh’s religion, he said: “There is no need.”

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