Gujarat chief minister Keshubhai Patel seems to be returning to
active politics after almost five years in political exile. And
this has set tongues wagging in the state's political circles.
Some analysts feel that bringing in Patel may the Bharatiya Janata
Party's (BJP) way of quietly taking on its arrogant Chief Minister
Narendra Modi, who has been defying its leadership in more ways
Patel, one of the founders of the party in Gujarat, had been
virtually sidelined since the 2007 assembly elections. But a
surprise invitation from the BJP to Patel to attend the party's
upcoming national executive meeting in Mumbai has led to
Patel has not said whether he will go to Mumbai. Some see his
silence as part of his wait and watch strategy. He is waiting for
Narendra Modi to make his next move. If Modi attends the Mumbai
meet, Patel may skip it. Although considered one of its most
charismatic leaders, Modi has been having increasing problems with
the BJP leadership.
Annoyed with the party for accommodating his bęte noire Sanjay
Joshi in the national executive, Modi did not attend the last
executive meeting. He also didn't campaign in this year's state
BJP's former minister of state Gordhan Zadaphia is hinting this
may well be true. Zadaphia told IANS that the invitation to
Keshubhai could mean that Modi's "political isolation has begun in
Very few buy this, but Zadaphia's statement cannot be dismissed if
one looks at developments taking shape in the state.
In recent times, Patel has blasted the Modi government and even
alleged that the whole of Gujarat was living in fear. Without
naming Modi, Patel alleged that there was no execution of
government programmes, and what Gujarat was witnessing was just
Patel has addressed a number of social and community programmes in
the last three months but the party has neither stopped him nor
taken any action for criticising the BJP's own government. In
contrast, only five years back, Patel was stopped from attending
the Patel community's functions.
According to political analyst Hemant Shah, the Patels in Gujarat
are unhappy with the Modi regime. In the March Mansa assembly
by-election, a constituency dominated by upper caste Patels, the
Congress defeated the BJP after 17 long years.
A fortnight ago, barely 5,000 Patels attended a meeting where Modi
was present. But just three months back, Keshubhai Patel addressed
a massive Patel gathering at Sidsar of Rajkot district.
As of now, out of every 100 votes caste by Patels, the BJP gets 70
and the Congress 30.
Any further dent in the BJP's vote bank is bound to harm the
party. In such a scenario, Patel will prove to be an asset when
elections are held next -- if he sticks to his guns. Elections are
due in December 2012.
Patel was once a formidable force in Gujarat but he got
marginalized as Modi's stature grew. After the 2002 communal
violence, Modi continued to lead the BJP to victory in elections,
cutting the Congress to size. As a result he came to be seen as a
Now it appears that both in Gujarat and nationally, Modi has run
into foes who would like to clip his wings.