The plot is thickening. The RSS is determined to make their blue eyed boy, good for nothing, political light weight, fatty Nitin Gadkhari as BJP’s next prime ministerial candidate. This is a man who diverted rivers in water parched Vidharba District in Maharashtra to construct power plants as his business! India's prime farmer suicide destination!But the RSS-Nitin Gadkhari combine want Narendra Modi out of the way by the next Lok Sabha elections and from media reports emanating from Gujarat, they are fanning a huge Patel rebellion against Modi by resurrecting the political fortunes of former BJP CM, Keshubhai Patel.In the last assembly elections in 2007, Modi had sailed through despite a rebellion of sorts by Patidar leaders within the state BJP. He had managed to do so by sharpening the divide between the Leuva and Kadva Patels, helped by Keshubhai’s absence from the country.The simmering, anti-establishment sentiment in the over one-crore-strong community, which has a sizeable presence in 75 of the total 182 assembly constituencies, is cause for concern, with Vidhan Sabha elections due in Gujarat around December this year. With Patels figuring amongst those convicted in the Sardarpura and Ode massacres, there was, for the first time, slogan-shouting against Modi at both judgement venues.So paranoid he is of the plot within his party to marginalize him; that Modi even took to courting Muslims in the state by fasting and reaching out to the Muslim community. Gandhinagar is Modi’s Assembly constituency and LK Advani’s Lok Sabha constituency. For the first time in several years, the Congress took control over Gandhinagar Corporation. Even more stunning was the Congress snatching away Mansa, part of the Gandinagar Lok Sabha constituency, a stronghold of the BJP from 1995. The Congress has now taken the fight to the lion’s den and think they have a chance in the next Assembly polls in December.
First Post: Keshubhai vs Modi: Can NaMo lose Gujarat?
Who is afraid of Narendra Modi? If BJP stalwart Keshubhai Patel is to be believed, it’s not just liberals and Congresswalahs. “The Patidars (Patels) are living under the shadow of fear,” the former Chief Minister thundered earlier this year. A message he has since repeated the message at various public forums.On 13 May, he went one first step futher: “Gujarat is ruled by pindaris and thugs and people live under fear, including IAS and IPS officers…. Those who live in the hearts of the people don’t need to force-ferry crowds to their public meetings…. Power’s being used just for personal publicity.”That there is no love lost between Narendra Modi and Patel is hardly news. The latter was unceremoniously cast out and replaced by Modi in 2001, irrevocably souring the relationship between mentor and protege. And certainly Patel did make similar noises ahead of the 2007 elections, but backed down under patry pressure. Sources claim, however, that “this time he is determined to take the fight to its logical conclusion.”Patel himself promised to remain defiant in his May 6 speech at a meeting of the Somnath Temple Trust, where he added this pop culture bon mot: “Dar ke agey jeet hai (victory is yours if you overcome fear); we require to hold our nerves”.
But is this the usual strum and drang generated by old political rivals ahead of elections? A routine bid for attention and favours by a warhorse cast out into the wilderness? If rumblings in the media are to be believed, this time around the Keshubhai threat is real.Outlook Magazine points to a rising rebellion amongst the Patel community that may skewer Modi’s fortunes:In the last assembly elections in 2007, Modi had sailed through despite a rebellion of sorts by Patidar leaders within the state BJP. He had managed to do so by sharpening the divide between the Leuva and Kadva Patels, helped by Keshubhai’s absence from the country.The strategy, however, does not seem to be working this time. Like the Muslims who, post-2002 riots, flaunt their identity in their way of dressing and headgear, Patels too are doing so with a vengeance, sporting simple ‘Patidar’ stickers on their vehicles, business establishments and even homes. Massive community congregations have already been held. The presence of Bapa (revered elder) at a nine-lakh-strong Leuva Patel gathering at Khodaldham near Rajkot in January and his advice—that it is right to present the other cheek if you are wrong but slap back twice if you are in the right—earned him a standing ovation.If empty chairs greeted Modi at a Leuva Patel function organised in Surat last month, over 60,000 people were present at a community gathering at Jamkandorna in Saurashtra two days later, where Keshubhai issued a call to arms. The simmering, anti-establishment sentiment in the over one-crore-strong community, which has a sizeable presence in 75 of the total 182 assembly constituencies, is cause for concern, with Vidhan Sabha elections due in Gujarat around December this year. With Patels figuring amongst those convicted in the Sardarpura and Ode massacres, there was, for the first time, slogan-shouting against Modi at both judgement venues.The reasons for the increasing ire include the Modi government’s neglect of the agricultural sector, and the perception that the Patels are being targeted in the court cases of the 2002 riots. Empty venues are also becoming a problem for Modi in Brahmin community gatherings.If rumblings in the media are to be believed, this time around the Keshubhai threat is real. But more alarmingly there are signs that Patel may enjoy the tacit support of BJP party honchos this time around. The Hindu notes “the increasing warmth between Mr Patel and Mr Advani” at very same meeting of the Somnath temple trust, and adds:If Mr. Patel goes all out against Mr. Modi, he is certain to get support from a number of other veteran leaders of the party in the State who have been finding themselves totally isolated and ignored. Besides Mr. Shankarsinh Waghela, “second pillar” of the BJP after Keshubhai Patel, who has since joined the Congress, several other senior party leaders like another former Chief Minister Suresh Mehta, the former Union Minister, Kashiram Rana, are waiting in the wings to join the fray against Mr. Modi.Times of India also points out that Patel – despite his increasingly incendiary attacks – has received an invite to the BJP National Executive meeting to be held later this month in Mumbai.“The party is aware of Keshubhai’s grievances, after he was removed as Gujarat’s chief minister overnight in 2001 to make way for Modi. At the conclave, Keshubhai is likely to address key issues that hurt the party in Gujarat,” an unnamed senior party leader told TOI.Most observers don’t quite buy BJP’s former minister of state Gordhan Zadaphia’s claim that Patel’s invite is a sign that Modi’s “political isolation has begun in the party.” But it is puzzling that the BJP leadership has not made a single move to rein in Patel in the run-up to a critical election. More so, since Keshubhai has been banned by the same leaders in the past from attending Patel community gatherings.If Patel does show up, a frontal attack at Modi from the dais at the two-day meet will have greater impact, more so since Modi himself is likely to be absent. The Gujarat CM is rumoured to be furious at the rehabilitation of his rival Sanjay Joshi and plans to amend the constitution to extend Nitin Gadkari’s tenure as party chief. Having already bailed on the last National Executive meeting, Outlook warns, “Should he skip it again, he may as well bid goodbye to his hopes of featuring as BJP’s prime minsterial candidate.”Wishful thinking aside, all of this may be just petty politicking as usual, and not an omen of Modi’s decline. But the Patel vote will indeed be significant in the upcoming elections. And there is no sign of Keshubhai fading silently into the night. On Friday, a large group of local leaders from across Gujarat held a meeting at his residence, urging him to “to give his leadership to a campaign against Modi.” That can’t be good news for Modi, even if it is indeed manufactured PR.