Sunday, December 1, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Pandya meets Vajpayee, Advani
Satish Misra
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, November 30
Despite Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee and Deputy Prime Minister L K Advani’s meetings with former Gujarat Home Minister Haren Pandya for ensuring a smooth election campaign in the state, the BJP appears to be on a sticky wicket as Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s “arrogant and authoritative” style has put a damper on the enthusiasm of party workers and sympathisers.

While both Mr Vajpayee and Mr Advani met Mr Pandya separately for over 35 minutes and appreciated his decision of not contesting from the Ellisbridge Assembly constituency in Ahmedabad, a seat held by him in the past three elections, authoritative sources said the BJP top leadership also expressed concern about Mr Modi’s unrelenting political behaviour and hardline attitude.

Even as Mr Modi did not respect Mr Vajpayee and Mr Advani’s advice, RSS joint general secretary Madandas Devi had to return empty-handed from Gandhinagar after camping there for three days in his efforts to persuade the Chief Minister to relent on Mr Pandya’s ticket from Ellisbridge.

The party’s traditional vote base has been eroded because the Chief Minister has been treading on so many toes ever since he assumed charge, sources said.

Even caste equations in Gujarat society are not favouring the BJP, a party insider said, adding that 22 per cent Kshatriyas (Rajputs) were solidly behind Mr Modi’s arch-rival Shankarsinh Vaghela.

Muslims, constituting almost 10 per cent of the electorate, would obviously not be voting for the party as the riots have even annoyed Bohras, who used to be with the party.

The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, which form almost 26 per cent of the electorate, are divided and their votes would split between the Congress and the BJP, a party leader observed.

Another powerful community of Patels is sharply divided and would not vote for the BJP like the last time, when former Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel was leading the party.

Brahmins and the rest of the remaining castes are equally divided. Moreover, the common man is fed up with insecurity prevailing in society since the outbreak of the post-Godhra riots, which has affected economic activities.

Meanwhile, talking to newspersons after the meetings, Mr Pandya said he would campaign for the party in the Assembly poll in the state. After the meetings, Mr Pandya told reporters that these were just “courtesy” calls and he was “satisfied”.

Mr Pandya’s meetings assume significance as these were his first interactions with the two top BJP leaders after he withdrew from the poll fray following stiff opposition from Mr Modi to his renomination from the Ellisbridge constituency.

He withdrew from the electoral fray as the party’s top leadership was “undecided” on giving him a ticket despite the fact they were keen on giving it to him.

“The party leadership was wanting to give me a ticket but there were certain reasons beyond their control that they could not decide on it.

So I decided not to participate in the poll,” he said. Asked about the reason why he was not considered for renomination from Ellisbridge, he said the reason would be known to the decision-makers.

He told party President N Venkaiah Naidu soon after the BJP virtually finalised its candidate from the constituency that he was opting out of the race on his own but would campaign for the party.

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