Sangh Pariwar leaders reach out to him given that he can eat into BJP votes in Saurashtra
The Bharatiya Janata Party in Gujarat has been making concerted efforts to bring round Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s bitter enemy, Keshubhai Patel, who has been giving the ruling party sleepless nights in the run-up to the Assembly elections scheduled for next month.
Over the past three days, coinciding with a convention of the Sangh Pariwar dharmacharyas that was also attended by Yoga guru Baba Ramdev, and through the last fortnight of October, attempts were made to touch base with Mr. Patel, a former Chief Minister, who has floated the Gujarat Parivartan Party, pitching himself as the answer to Gujarat’s “iron man” and announcing on November 5 that he would contest the polls.
While Mr. Modi had met RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat in Nagpur earlier last month, ostensibly to get him to rein in Mr. Patel, Ramdev sneaked out of the convention to meet Mr. Patel on the Ahmedabad-Vadodara Expressway. Some others in the Sangh Pariwar are reportedly trying to reach out to him.
“There is a serious attempt to… mollify [Mr.] Patel, whose dispensation cannot win more than four or five seats, but along with his ability to eat into the BJP votes — especially those of the Patels — in several constituencies in his Saurashtra region, this could prove lethal,” a party old-timer tells The Hindu. He also “strongly believes” that a breakthrough could come off around or after Diwali.
Saurashtra sends 58 legislators to the 182-member Assembly.
Not all, however, think Mr. Patel will look back now. Another former Chief Minister and a key strategist of the Gujarat Parivartan Party, Suresh Mehta says: “Keshubhai has come too far to go back.”
Interestingly, when the RSS and VHP brass, including VHP chief Ashok Singhal, were around, Mr. Patel was meeting leaders of the Bharatiya Kisan Sangh, a Pariwar outfit that has fallen out with Mr. Modi after he allegedly handed over large parcels of farm and grazing land to industrial houses.
Simultaneously, chinks in the Pariwar emerged when VHP international general secretary Pravin Togadia staged a silent protest and kept away from the closed-door dharmacharya convention when Mr. Mohan Bhagwat and Mr. Modi were there. Mr. Togadia has been smarting under the pain of having allegedly been ignored by the Modi government, since the rank and file of his outfit played an important role in the BJP’s ascent to power and allegedly during the 2002 riots.
The BJP’s first Chief Minister, Mr. Patel felt slighted for several years, with Mr. Modi finishing him off after ousting him in October 2001. Over three months ago, he parted ways with the party, of which he was one of the founding fathers. The response to the rallies his outfit has organised so far is good enough to rattle the BJP.
The believers of the theory argue that Mr. Patel may see reason and get back to his parent fold after extracting a promise of some accommodation in Delhi and a major say in deciding candidates. “It will be prudent for him, given that a third party has never succeeded in Gujarat, and Mr. Patel may not have much future,” says a BJP leader.
Those opposed to this idea say Mr. Patel’s aim is to see Mr. Modi’s back, and revenge knows no opportunistic logic. “In any case, at 84, what hope does he have of a future,” asks another leader. Speculation apart, there is no denying that the BJP is indeed trying to get back Mr. Patel.