The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bumpy road ahead for rath

Ahmedabad, Sept. 19: When Narendra Modi’s Gaurav Yatra rolls again on Saturday through south Gujarat, it will have to barrel through a wave of protest and negotiate a slippery stretch of scam-induced muck.

Irked by the low power subsidy announced by the government, the hostile weavers of south Gujarat have decided to greet the Gaurav rath with protests. They are feeling let down by the Modi regime as it gave only a 10 per cent subsidy after promising 30 per cent relief in power tariff for the powerloom industry.

The Congress is backing the weavers to the hilt and is sure to rake up the issue more than once before the elections. The third phase of the yatra that will traverse 16 tribal-dominated segments after the kickoff from Unai’s Sita Mata temple seems set to provide the Congress with another stick to beat the BJP.

Two scam-tainted conveners, appointed by the party for this leg of the controversial “journey of pride”, have become a source of acute embarrassment for Modi. State BJP secretary and co-convener Jayanti Kevat from Navsari is one of the directors of the Navsari People’s Co-operative Bank, which lost Rs 23 crore in the HomeTrade scam. A complaint has been lodged against Kevat and the other directors with Navsari police.

The other co-convener, C.R. Patil, owes Rs 48 crore to the Diamond Jubilee Cooperative Bank. He defaulted on his payment, resulting in the bank going bust on August 26. It is under an RBI-appointed administrator now.

While the state government is contemplating legal action against Patil, Gaurav Yatra convener Jayanti Barot said he was not aware of his dealings. “It is only after media reports that I learnt about it,” he told reporters. Barot claimed that the party had picked him three months ago as he was a loyal worker.

Patil was absolutely nonchalant about his repayment problems. He claimed that he had not committed any irregularity, any crime. “I’m a businessman and like every businessman, I have taken a loan. I have not committed any fraud. I have not submitted forged documents. Nobody should blame me. I have just take a loan, which I will repay. That’s it,” he said.

However, a section in the BJP, owing loyalty to Union textile minister Kashiram Rana, south Gujarat’s strongman, maintains that the persons involved in the bank scams should come clean. They should explain their conduct not only to depositors, but even to party supporters, who will otherwise lose confidence in the party.

Rana’s supporters feel the BJP should also rethink the active involvement of scam-tainted party functionaries in important programmes like the Gaurav Yatra as it sends out wrong signals.

State BJP chief Rajendrasinh Rana admitting that the party is uncomfortable with the tainted conveners, but pleaded helplessness. “There is nothing we can do about it at this juncture. The issue has been brought to my notice and I will look into it. But right now, I cannot change the conveners as the yatra is to begin on Saturday and there is no time to find replacements.”

Patil’s, a fund-raiser for the BJP, is a rag-to-riches story — he rose from a constable in Surat police to chairman of the Gujarat Industrial Development Corporation. He is chairman of Gujarat Alkalies and Chemical Limited and owns a cable channel, Eye Witness, and a newspaper, Navgujarat Times. Besides, he has four processing units in Surat. Patil took Rs 48 crore as loan.

in a phased manner over the last year-and-a-half for the construction of a housing complex.

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