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Cornered Modi: Behave or I’ll dissolve Assembly

Wednesday 26 May 2004

GANDHINAGAR: In a bid to arrest the dissidence against him which has now assumed gigantic proportions, Chief Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday threatened to resign and recommend dissolution of the state assembly

The threat was delivered just after the weekly Cabinet meeting ended with most ministers still within earshot and carried further when Modi met MLAs individually later during the day.

Referring to a large number of MLAs meeting state BJP chief Rajendrasinh Rana in Ahmedabad

to complain against him, Modi was quoted angrily asking the ministers: "What is all this happening? If the MLAs do not have confidence in me, then I will resign."

A senior BJP MLA said Modi repeated the threat later during a meeting with MLAs individually, pointing out that many of them had been elected because of him.

Dissidence has been mounting after the results of the Lok Sabha polls were announced and has gained momentum during the last three days. Matters came to a head on Monday evening when Modi abruptly closed a BJP legislature committee meeting when 25 MLAs stood up to air their grievances.

BJP MLAs have been virtually behaving as opposition legislators in the state assembly whose session is presently on.

Reacting to Modi’s sharp remarks after the Cabinet meeting, revenue minister Kaushik Patel, health minister IK Jadeja, home minister Amit Shah and law minister Ashok Bhatt reportedly tried to reassure the CM that they would convince the MLAs not to indulge in "groupism".

They also persuaded Modi to start meeting MLAs individually - an effort to take care of their grievances. Later in the evening, after the day’s assembly session ended, Modi was found to be meeting MLAs individually.

Rumblings in the state assembly began immediately after the Cabinet meeting ended. There were also reports that ministers IK Jadeja, Ashok Bhatt and Amit Shah, who are Modi’s henchmen, had been given the job to obtain signatures from MLAs in support of Modi.

Throughout the day, very few BJP MLAs were present in the state assembly. Finance minister Vajubhai Vala had to send frequent reminders to both ministers and MLAs to listen to the debate on the budget, but none seemed interested.

The MLAs on Wednesday were huddled together at various places, including the chamber of BJP chief whip Jitendra Sukhadia, MLAs’ lounge and MLAs’ quarters. Some of them were also seen at the Circuit House annexe in Ahmedabad to represent before state party chief Rajendrasinh Rana.

According to one BJP MLA, on Tuesday alone about 35 MLAs had met Rana, taking the total number to 85.

Wednesday’s developments took shape after senior BJP leaders Suresh Mehta, Kashiram Rana and Rajendrasinh Rana held a meeting at Keshubhai’s residence late on Tuesday evening to

discuss the political developments and to decide whether it was time to further step up the offensive against Modi.

Mehta is leaving for Delhi to apprise the central leadership of the deepening political crisis over the state leadership issue.

On the other side, some Modi loyalists have started collecting signatures of MLAs in favour of the chief minister.

In another development, Rajendrasinh Rana had a telephonic conversation with LK Advani as well as Venkaiah Naidu on Wednesday morning where he told them about the feeling of resentment against Modi that he had encountered during his meetings with them in Ahmedabad over the last three days.

Rana, who was elected to the Lok Sabha from Bhavnagar , had alleged that two MLAs close to Modi had tried to sabotage his election. Attempts to contact Modi on the subject proved futile.

Birthday bashing: The birthday celebrations of former Union minister AK Patel in Ahmedabad on Thursday evening may serve as a platform for the Modi-baiters in the Gujarat BJP to show their strength.

BJP sources said that Patel, a former MP from Mehsana, had decided to celebrate his birthday in Ahmedabad though the venue had not been communicated to the MLAs.

BJP sources said Modi’s fate would well hinge on how many of the 127 BJP MLAs attend the birthday bash which has now assumed political overtones.

See online : The Times of India

P.S.

in The Times of India, Wednesday, May 26, 2004.

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