December 8, 2013 3:56:38 am
There are signs of former Gujarat chief minister Keshubhai Patel,the sulking leader who quit BJP to launch his own outfit and won two seats in the last Assembly elections,returning to the BJP.
Keshubhai had launched the Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) ahead of the 2012 Assembly elections by merging the other rebel Gordhan Zadaphias Maha Gujarat Janata Party and went on to win two seats,including his own,Visavadar.
At 83 years,Keshubhai might lend a lot of symbolism to BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi than actual clout. Apart from helping in putting up a united face of the BJP,he can bridge the gap with the politically influential Leuva Patel community to fulfil Modis target of winning all 26 Lok Sabha seats of Gujarat.
The murmurs in the BJP about this merger have become stronger since Modi met Keshubhai on his birthday on September 17. Nalin Kotadia,the other GPP MLA who was elected from Dhari,claimed the GPP-BJP merger is only a matter of time. Most of the GPP leaders will go back to the BJP with Bapa (Keshubhai). It is just a matter of time and it is going to happen soon, Kotadia told The Indian Express.
Keshubhai could not be reached for comments.
The GPPs stand,though anti-Modi,had been more anti-Congress. Also with the RSS,which had backed Keshubhai during the 2012 elections and which is now backing Modi for the prime minister post,the merger might look inevitable.
More than any electoral gain,winning back Keshubhai will give a high moral ground to Modi, said a senior BJP leader. Modi did not waste any time to win BJP patriarch L K Advani back,even after he protested his PM candidature. But things were different in the case of Keshubhai,which had earned Modi an image of a self-centered leader. A united show with him will help Modi project an image of a leader acceptable to all.
Other rebels,including seven MLAs and three MPs who joined quit between 2007 and 2011,are already back in the BJP.
Another reason could be the GPPs influence in Saurashtra,where it caused damage to the BJP in eight constituencies,of which six were Patel-dominated. It even dented the Congress votes in four constituencies.
Winning back the Visavadar assembly constituency,after being inactive for 10 years,by huge margin of 42,186 votes against the BJPs sitting MLA Kanu Bhalala,Keshubhai,a two-time CM and five-time MLA,had proved his drawing power.
Gordhan Zadaphia,former home minister and second-in-command of GPP,however,refuted Kotadias claim. Kotadia can go if he wants. Keshubhai,I and other GPP leaders will continue to stick together as GPP, he said.
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