Keshubhai giving jitters to Modi

A widely respected leader, revered in Saurashtra region, Mehta has pulled out all stops in his ‘crusade’ against Modi and his govt

GANDHINAGAR : The media may have written off former BJP patriarch Keshubhai Patel as of little consequence in the ensuing poll battle in Gujarat but Chief Minister Narendra Modi has not.

The Gujarat BJP parliamentary board which met on the outskirts of Ahmedabad recently devoted a fair share of its time to discussing their own one-time father figure and his new regional outfit, the Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP).

Keshubhai giving jitters to Modi

A mild-mannered politician belonging to the old school, Keshubhai Patel, much against his nature, has been uncharacteristically brazen and direct in his attacks against Modi. What began as probing jibes at Patidar (Patel) community conventions in the beginning of the year has now turned into a full-scale declaration of war by Patel on Modi.

Patel who had given up contesting elections after he was replaced by Modi has this time made it clear that he is back in poll fray and will contest from his old seat of Visavadar in Junagadh district of Saurashtra. The decision is more to clear that he intends to lead the battle against the BJP from the front unlike last time.

In the run up to the 2007 vidhan sabha polls, a fair number of BJP leaders, including former chief minister Suresh Mehta and Modi minister Gordhan Jhadapia, had raised the banner of revolt against Modi but Patel shied away from leading them into battle and the rebellion crashed at the hustings.

Patel seems to be out to make amends this time. A widely respected leader, revered in Saurashtra region, he has pulled out all stops in his ‘crusade’ against Modi and his government.

Considered over the hill at 84 and out of sync with the bulk of present voters, Patel has surprised keen poll scene watchers with the large enthusiastic crowds, he has managed to gather particularly in Saurashtra region during his statewide yatra. Eyes opened wide when recently Patel’s party GPP organised a hugely successful rally in eastern Ahmedabad considered a bastion of the BJP.

A good showing in Saurashtra is crucial for the BJP if Modi seeks to retain power in the state. The region accounts for 58 seats in a total 182 seat Vidhan Sabha.Gone is the crushed demeanour that characterised the person who was replaced by Modi in 2001 as chief minister. Instead, there is a noticeable aggressive streak as he lunges into Modi in meetings after meetings.

“The public response to Patel clearly indicates that there is space for a third force as against the perception based on past results that Gujarat does not support a regional party,” says former chief minister Suresh Mehta , GPP vice-president and key strategist.

Mehta however is confident that Patel and his set up will prove a game changer in the ensuing December elections.All in all Keshubhai  and his outfit remains the untested factor capable of tilting the balance either way. And Modi is monitoring it very closely while maintaining an I-couldn’t-care- less exterior.

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