Wednesday, September 4, 2002, Chandigarh, India

National Capital Region--Delhi


M A I N   N E W S

Jacob likely to replace Bhandari in Gujarat
Satish Misra
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 3
In view of the possibility of the state coming under Presidentís rule, the Centre is seriously considering replacing the Gujarat Governor, Mr Sunder Singh Bhandari, with the Punjab Governor, Lt-Gen J.F.R. Jacob (retd).

Perplexed over the uncertainty related to the Supreme Court ruling over the issue of Gujarat coming under Presidentís rule, the Centre is understood to have recently sounded General Jacob during his recent visit to the Capital for his eye treatment.

The move to replace Mr Bhandari with General Jacob is being contemplated with a view to not giving a handle to the Opposition as the present Governor has always been a hardliner pracharak of the Rashtriya Swyamsevak Sangh, sources said.

It is felt that in case Gujarat comes under Presidentís rule in the wake of a possible ruling of the apex court, the state would require a person who is well conversant with the principles of administration and deft in handling tricky political situations.

Not only is the Vajpayee government concerned over the developments in Gujarat, but even the BJP high command is particularly not very happy with reports of factionalism rearing its head in the state unit of the party with former Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel not being in a cooperative mood and Textile Minister Kashiram Rana sulking for not being given his due.

This would mean that not only will Patel votes go away from the BJP, but even backward sections owing allegiance to Mr Rana may not remain with the party.

While Mr Patel is cut up with Chief Minister Narendra Modi for alienating the powerful agriculturist community of Patels by the administrationís resistance to declare drought in the state, other BJP leaders in the state feel insulted with the Chief Ministerís ďabrasive and arrogantĒ behaviour and style.

What has further unnerved the BJP high command is an election survey which was commissioned by the Chief Minister. The survey has shown that the BJPís share of assembly seats may slide down below 70 in the 182-seat Assembly.

While Mr Modi is desperate to undertake the Gujarat gaurav yatra for reviving the Hindutva agenda, state Congress President Shankarsinh Vaghelaís aggressive style is causing a headache to the BJP high command. BJP leaders feel that Mr Vaghela is all out to precipitate a crisis.

If any untoward incident happens, then the blame would be passed on to the ruling party and the Opposition stands to gain politically from it. That is why Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee is said to be favouring cancellation of the gaurav yatra.

Pressure is mounting on the Prime Minister, with not only the Opposition parties asking him to stop the yatra, but even some prominent media personalities writing to him to direct Mr Modi to cancel the yatra plan.

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