The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Sleepless Modi flock scouts for safe seats

Ahmedabad, Nov. 3: It is an ominous sign for the BJP. The party that wanted early Assembly elections to take political advantage of the perceived polarisation in the state suddenly finds itself shaky without a plank.

Lack of performance, anti-incumbency and doubt about the Hindutva wave are giving several MLAs sleepless nights. The legislators want to change their constituencies and seek re-nomination from safe seats — an indication that BJP leaders themselves are not sure that the so-called ‘Hindutva wave’ they have been talking about.

Chief minister Narendra Modi is among those looking for a safe constituency. Modi feels that if he seeks re-election from Rajkot, his arch- rival , former chief minister Keshubhai Patel, might upset his calculations and defeat him as the two leaders do not see eye to eye.

As Rajkot is no longer considered a safe seat for the chief minister, Modi is now eyeing Ellisbridge, Sabarmati, Godhra, Unja, Naroda , Surat, and Vijapur.

Former revenue minister Haren Pandya who represented Ellisbridge has been sounded about Modi’s intention but has put his foot down. Earlier, too, when after becoming chief minister Modi had wanted to contest from Ellisbridge, Pandya had refused to vacate his well-nursed constituency. Eventually, Modi contested from Rajkot and Pandya had to resign from the Cabinet.

Others who sought to change constituencies include former chief minister Suresh Mehta, Speaker Dheerubhai Shah, education minister Anandiben Patel, urban development minister I.K. Jadeja, power minister Kaushik Patel, minister for cooperation Vadilal Patel and deputy minister for fisheries Malubhai Vera.

Most of the ministers looking for safe constituencies are close to the chief minister. A host of MLAs close to the chief minister do not want to seek re-election from their present constituency.

Several ministers who represent Ahmedabad city are worried. Civil supply minister Bharat Barot, home minister Gordhan Zadhapia, and power minister Kaushik Patel. Patel and Zadhapia are most hated BJP leaders in their constituencies.

Going by the mood of party workers who protested against these leaders before the party observers — Bhupendra Chudasma and BJP spokesman Nalin Bhatt — these minister and some MLAs like Mayaben Kodnani are no longer popular even among party leaders who hold the key to their victory.

On Saturday, when BJP observers met to decide on the list of candidates to be fielded from the 12 constituencies , a large number of party workers vented their ire at former MLA Mayaben Kodnani. Several BJP office-bearers even threatened to resign if Kodnani was renominated from Naroda seat.

In a significant development, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad has demanded four seats in the city. The VHP wants to field state joint secretary Jaydeep Patel from Naroda. However, the party high command is unlikely to nominate Patel from Naroda as that would send a wrong signal and the party will be accused of openly playing communal cards — something the party leadership would not allow .

If the BJP decides to play the communal card, Modi might contest from Godhra and Patel from Naroda . “At this juncture we cannot rule it out,” said a party insider.

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