By Nilofar Suhrawardy, Muslim Media News Service (MMNS)
AHMEDABADâ€“With his party members refusing to support him- Narendra Modi, during the forthcoming assembly elections in Gujarat, political situation was never ever so complex and confusing for him and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The BJP central leadership has even been asked to decide between the party and Modi. If BJP senior leaders insist on supporting Modi, several BJP dissidents have signaled that they would rather align with Congress than remain in the party.
The Gujarat assembly elections are due in November. â€œOust Narendra Modi at all costsâ€ was the cry of BJP dissidents gathered last week along with several Congress leaders at a major farmersâ€™ rally held at Race Course ground in Rajkot under the banner of Sardar Patel Utkarsh Sewa Mandal. More than 150,000 people, primarily from Kutch and Saurashtra turned up for the convention, with two farmer communities Patel and Koli present in significant number. Among the prominent leaders present at the convention were Vithal Radadia, Congress MLA (Member of Legislative Assembly) and BJP MPs (Members of Parliament) Somabhai Patel and Valabh Kataria.
Radadia, who played a crucial role in organizing the farmersâ€™ convention, the mahasammelan (mega-meet), said: â€œAll the farmers have come here on their own because they are frustrated and fed up with Modi and his governmentâ€™s anti-farmer policies and stands.â€ â€œThe state government doesnâ€™t have even a piece of land to give to a poor farmer. But it magnanimously gives acres to industrialists,â€ he said.
With BJP dissidents mincing no words in criticizing Modi, home minister in the previous BJP government Gordhan Zadaphia said: â€œModi has committed so many sins on the hallowed land of Mahatma Gandhiâ€™s origins that all those who vote against him in the coming assembly elections will earn a lot of punya (morals). Women are raped and killed by the day while he keeps boasting that they are the most protected lot in Gujarat.â€ Describing Modi as the â€œthe biggest terroristâ€ in the country, BJP dissident Dhiru Gajera said: â€œThere is just no limit to manâ€™s crimes. He will go to any level to win to coming polls. But we farmers and others will defeat his deadly designs.â€
What was unique about this convention, unlike other rebel gatherings, was that for the first time the BJP dissidents called on the people to vote for the Congress and defeat the BJP. Shouting anti-Modi slogans, they adopted a resolution to defeat the â€œautocratic and dictatorialâ€ chief minister in the polls. The conclave also hit out at Modiâ€™s mentor, L.K. Advani. Claiming that there was no BJP in Gujarat, Gajera said: â€œIt is Modiâ€™s private limited company. There are only two parties, the Congress and Modi.â€
Though the BJP dissident leaders did not refrain from urging the farmers to â€œcrush the lotus,â€ the BJP symbol, they did not reveal as to what were their political plans, that of joining Congress, forming a separate party or otherwise. As expressed by Kataria: â€œWe have not decided upon our final strategy as yet. For now, we are mobilizing people against Modiâ€™s autocracy.â€ Emphasizing that their stand was against Modi and not against BJP, Soma Patel and Kataria even challenged the party to suspend them for having adopted this approach.
Against this backdrop, while Modiâ€™s return to power seems unlikely, it is still too early to speculate whether this development signals favorable chances for the Congress or not. If the BJP decides on selecting former chief minister Keshubhai Patel, in place of Modi, party dissidents may be won over. Though Patel was not present at the farmersâ€™ gathering, Zadaphia claimed: â€œWe have not invited him to this convention. But we have his blessings.â€
Going forward, the political drama in Gujarat has ceased to be a battle between only the Congress and BJP, as Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) aims to gain power here. Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati began BSPâ€™s campaign in Gujarat by addressing a rally in Vadodara (September 16). Signaling her partyâ€™s aim to repeat its UP-success in Gujarat, BSP-supremo said that if her party could form the UP government on its own strength, it was possible for it to do so in Gujarat also. Mayawati said: â€œIf this could happen in UP, why canâ€™t we do it in Gujarat?â€ Outlining BSPâ€™s electoral strategy, she said: â€œWhether we are weak or strong in any part of Gujarat, we will field all candidates in all 182 assembly constituencies in the state and will be successful as we were in UP elections.â€ Lashing at both the Congress and BJP, Mayawati appealed to people of Gujarat to vote for her party to remove Modi-led government. With BJP dividing people on basis of religions and Congress on basis of castes, only BSP unites people of all communities on basis of â€œbhaicharaâ€ (brotherhood), she asserted. So people of Gujarat must vote for BSP, Mayawati said.
Irrespective of which party/alliance assumes power in Gujarat, it seems clear that Modi is unlikely to be chief minister!