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Modi closes doors to rebels
- BJP showcauses Keshubhai Patel

New Delhi, Dec. 21: Gujarat chief minister and BJP leader Narendra Modi appears to have launched his post-poll operation a little too early, around 48 hours before the people’s verdict is known.

He got the central leadership to crack the whip on veteran party leader Keshubhai Patel, the rallying point of rebellion against him in the state unit.

The BJP issued showcause notices to Keshubhai and member of Parliament Kashiram Rana for indiscipline and suspended two other MPs, Vallabhai Kathiria and Somabhai Patel, for “hurting” the party’s interests in the Assembly polls.

Both Vallabhai and Somabhai are blind supporters of Keshubhai and openly campaigned for the Congress in the just-concluded election.

Keshubhai, who made no secret of his dislike for Modi, has been asked to explain within a week as to why they made such statements “which damaged the party’s poll efforts”.

The rebels had put an advertisement in newspapers on behalf of Keshubhai, appealing for a change in Gujarat.

Kashiram, also unhappy with Modi, was more cautious but he had said on the polling day of the second phase of election that a “wave of change” was sweeping through Gujarat.

The timing of the decision has evoked curiosity in BJP circles. Some say Modi wanted the decision to be announced before the results so that the slate is wiped clean as he starts his next chapter. Besides, there was no problem in taking action against the rebels as the central leadership had also given up hope of rapprochement. But others throw a hint of deft political management by Modi who was not very sure of the outcome.

Top sources in the BJP said there were rumours in Gujarat that Keshubhai and the other dissident MPs had been working on a select group of potential winners to create problems if Modi just scraped through.

“The rebels were talking about difficulties in Modi retaining his chief ministership if he just managed to get past the half-way mark. Keshubhai had sway over some half-a-dozen potential winners and he was in touch with them. Modi has acted in time to strike fear into the potential defectors,” a senior leader said.

A section of BJP has such antipathy against Modi that they can go to any extent to prevent him from taking the reins of the government again. Keshubahi, along with these MPs would have been in a better position to influence the “suspect MLAs” by being within the party.

The central leadership had gone out of its way to appease Keshubhai in the run-up to the election and avoided making any critical comment about him.

This had sent a message that the central leaders were still backing not fully backing Modi and would like to accommodate Keshubhai in the future. Modi wanted to eliminate this hope or dilemma from the minds of MLAs, leaving for them no option other than backing him to the hilt.

Till action had been taken against Keshubhai and particularly these MPs, they were very much part of the BJP structure and meeting them or working with them could not have attracted disciplinary action. Modi has closed the doors once for all.

There is another argument being given in support of the timing of the decision. Modi would not have liked to leave any scope for challenging his authority in Gujarat even if he lost. He has carved a huge space for himself in Gujarat politics and being an undisputed leader of the main opposition party, in case he lost, would keep him afloat for future challenges. Had these rebels stayed back in the party, Modi’s authority would have automatically come under strain after he lost power.

The timing of the decision also indicates Modi’s clout in the BJP at this moment. There are many senior leaders in the party would thought Modi should have shown a sense of accommodation as Keshubhai was one of the founder members of the party and had built the organization in Gujarat with his blood and toil. That the dominant section of the Sangh Parivar was also unhappy with Modi encouraged these leaders to pursue this line. But Modi, who has the backing of L K Advani and Arun Jaitley, appears to have compelled Rajnath Singh to take the plunge.

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