“Under Modi, the party has lost its identity and moved far away from its ideologies and principles”

The former Gujarat Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel, one of the founder-leaders of the BJP in the State, and the former Union Minister, Kashiram Rana, on Saturday announced their resignations from the BJP to float a new party to contest the coming Assembly elections.

The resignations had been sent to party president Nitin Gadkari, they said.

Announcing their resignations, Mr. Patel said the new party to be announced on Sunday would be the “real BJP.” He said the people of the State were unhappy with the BJP’s functioning, where an individual — Chief Minister Narendra Modi — was considered more important than the organisation.

“Will find the real BJP”

“We are quitting the parent organisation that we both served for nearly six decades with a heavy heart. In reality, we are not quitting the BJP, but rather we will find the ‘real BJP’ as the party under Mr. Modi has lost its identity and moved far away from its ideologies and principles towards personal glorification, reducing the party organisation to an obscure corner,” he said.

Mr. Patel, who had been attacking Mr. Modi for the last few months — going to the extent of comparing him with Hitler and calling the decade-old Modi regime a “total misrule” — had made his intentions to quit the BJP clear a long time ago if his demand for a change of leadership was not considered. He had recently visited Delhi and called on the Central leaders to press his demand, but having received no response he finally decided to part ways with the parent organisation.

Eighty-four-year-old Mr. Patel was credited with building up the erstwhile Jana Sangh and later the BJP in the State along with another former Chief Minister, Shankarsinh Waghela. Mr. Waghela too quit the BJP, also in protest against the prominence given to Mr. Modi, and formed a new party which merged with the Congress about a decade ago.

Mr. Rana, the Textiles Minister in the Atal Bihari Vajpayee Cabinet, was also among the veteran party leaders in the State sidelined completely for the last eight years or so.

Powerful leader

One of the most respected politicians in the State and adored by the BJP rank and file, Mr. Patel is considered the most powerful leader of the numerically strong “Patel” community, which can shift the balance in the electoral battles.

His departure is unlikely to have much impact on the BJP set-up since he had been marginalised for long.

On the eve of the 2007 Assembly elections, another former Chief Minister, Suresh Mehta, quit the BJP, also in protest against Mr. Modi’s total control over both the party and the government, but did not join any party. He had lately been hobnobbing with Mr. Patel and Mr. Rana appearing on the anti-Modi platforms, even if it was promoted by the Congress or the Mahagujarat Janata Party, a splinter group of the BJP formed by a former Modi Cabinet member, Gordhan Jhadafiya.

Mr. Jhadafiya has already announced that if Mr. Patel formed a new party, he would merge his MJP with the new outfit.

Mr. Patel, who was unceremoniously removed by the party leadership from the chief ministership in 2001 to make way for Mr. Modi, in a stinging attack on his successor, said the BJP in Gujarat had become a “one-man show” who was projecting himself as the “only national leader” at the cost of the party.

“He is not only ignoring the party, but also insulting thousands of party workers as if everything is achieved by one person. Even Gujarat’s pride is at stake and the unhappy people of the State are looking for a change,” he said.