The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Relentless Atal hammers Modi

New Delhi, June 17: A decision on sacking Narendra Modi may be taken on Sunday when Atal Bihari Vajpayee is expected to hold a meeting with L.K. Advani, party president M. Venkaiah Naidu and the Sangh point man for dealing with the BJP, Madan Das Devi.

Vajpayee today insisted Gujarat would be discussed at the national executive next week in Mumbai, apparently threatening not to attend the session if he did not have his way.

Emboldened after silencing Modi backers in the Sangh and the BJP, Vajpayee said: “We will discuss Gujarat in Mumbai. We discuss (such issues) both after victory and defeat. We will not be afraid of discussions.”

Vajpayee had reopened the Modi chapter last Sunday when he said Gujarat would be raised at the executive.

If the issue is clinched the coming Sunday, Modi could be told to put in his papers before the executive meets on June 23-24. If not, the leadership would wait for the anti-Modi legislators to regroup and launch their next offensive. The interregnum, sources said, would help them find a successor.

But there was also a view that the longer the wait, the greater the chances of Modi consolidating his position and striking back.

“Eighty per cent of the Gujarat party wants him to go. So rather than wait for the battle to be fought in public, the change should happen swiftly,” said a central office-bearer.

After the second assertion from Vajpayee that Gujarat would be on the Mumbai agenda, there was a feeling in the BJP that the sooner the “Modi matter” was settled the better.

A discussion on Gujarat could trigger a slugfest on why the BJP was worsted in states like Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the sources said. The Maharashtra BJP, hosting the meeting, did not want a discussion on Gujarat for fear it may alienate its hardcore constituents in the state which goes to the polls in three months.

It is learnt that Advani and general secretary Pramod Mahajan, who is in charge of Maharashtra, could try and persuade Vajpayee, at the June 20 meeting, to give up his stand.

Appearing to harp on technicalities, senior leader V.K. Malhotra said the issue of chief ministership is not a subject for a meeting of the executive. “It is for the parliamentary board to discuss and decide on such issues.”

The Sangh request was that Modi’s resignation should be de-linked from the post-Godhra violence and the defeat in the Lok Sabha polls. But going by Vajpayee’s mood, he may not play ball.

Today’s insistence was seen as the clearest signal from him that if Modi went, it would only be because of the violence and the way his government had handled it.

Vajpayee has been smarting under the humiliation of not only being unable to get him out when he was the Prime Minister. Besides, he had to suffer the adverse publicity his own government had received within and outside India on Gujarat.

Those who had picked up the bat for Modi soon after Vajpayee’s first statement were today either not heard or had changed tack.

There was no word from the RSS chief, K.S. Sudarshan, or the Vishwa Hindu Parishad while Naidu has started ingratiating himself to Vajpayee with the determination that marked his damage-control mission after last year’s blundering remark about “loh purush and vikas purush” (iron man — Advani — and development man — Vajpayee).

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