The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Modi ouster stumbles

New Delhi, June 15: A decision to sack Narendra Modi this month itself was taken at the highest level of the BJP and the Sangh, party sources said. But Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s statement indicating Modi would go because of the post-Godhra violence has introduced an element of uncertainty into the plan.

Sources said Modi would have had to quit anyway as the going got tougher for him with the Supreme Court cracking down hard on the Gujarat chief minister and his government in the Best Bakery case. Support from within the party or the Sangh would not have been able to save him.

But the dominant mood in the BJP has turned against removing Modi by citing the riots as the reason, which is what Vajpayee has indicated.

“Riots' No, we will never sacrifice any leader for his role in riots. We are not like the Congress (which apologised for the 1984 anti-Sikh riots),” a source said.

The decision to get rid of Modi was taken when there was a rebellion against his leadership earlier this month. Vajpayee, L.K. Advani, party president M. Venkaiah Naidu and the Sangh point man in dealings with the BJP, Madan Das Devi, had agreed he would go because of his “behaviour and style of functioning”.

They also decided to usher in the change quietly after the Gujarat Assembly session was over. Keshubhai Patel and Kashiram Rana were considered as replacements.

“Atalji’s statements have come as a reprieve (however temporary it may be) for Modi. When the RSS chief supported him, we got the cue and even someone like Jaswant Singh, who is supposed to be close to Vajpayee, went along with the pro-Modi view,” the source added.

This is the reason Naidu said yesterday Modi’s removal was not on the agenda for the party’s national executive in Mumbai next week. If, however, Vajpayee resolves to push the question himself at the session, the party would find it difficult to brush it aside. “Our only hope is Vajpayee may beat a retreat as he has done several times in the past,” the source said.

The views of Advani, who was party to the decision to remove Modi, could have a bearing on Vajpayee’s position.

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