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Shaken BJP suspends 5 anti-Modi MLAs
Satish Misra
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, July 23
A crisis-ridden Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) today sought to arrest growing dissidence in the party by suspending five known anti-Narendra Modi MLAs in Gujarat.

Hoping to tackle growing dissidence in the party before the Assembly elections later this year, BJP president Rajnath Singh wielded baton and suspended rebel MLAs Gordhan Zadafia, Balubhai Tanti, Becharbhai Bhadani, Bavkubhai Unghad and Dhirubhai Gajera who have been trying in vain to impress upon senior central leaders, including former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha L.K.Advani, to either change state Chief Minister Narendra Modi or reform his "dictatorial" style of functioning.

While the action in Gujarat is aimed at checking dissidence activities against Modi, it is also directed against all those who have a different view, a senior leader said, expressing doubts whether these steps would help in arresting the state of drift in the party.

Announcing the party's decision at the regular media briefing, BJP spokesman Prakash Javadekar said the action showed that the party would not tolerate any kind of anti-party activities at any cost, indicating that our doors are closed for them from today onwards if they do not apologise.

The disciplinary action came after Advani succeeded in prevailing upon Rajnath Singh to wield the baton and check the growing dissidence against Narendra Modi, sources said.

Advani, who visited Gandhinagar to campaign for NDA's presidential candidate Bhairon Singh Shekhawat recently, was shocked to see that 26 MLAs and four MPs had absented themselves from the meeting that he was to address. This incident had infuriated Advani, a leader said.

Advani, who has been the main mentor of Modi and has been protecting him despite opposition even from the former Prime Minister, insisted with the party chief that disciplinary action should be initiated against the dissidents.

The party has taken action against only small leaders but has not dared to do anything against senior leaders like former chief ministers Keshubhai Patel and Suresh Mehta and former union minister Kashiram Rana who have been at the forefront of the anti-Modi campaign, a senior leader said.

The BJP’s base in Gujarat has been shrinking rapidly, as resentment among Patels, Kolis and Brahmins has been growing. The party had fared poorly in the Lok Sabha elections when the BJP had led only in 90 Assembly segments and the Congress in 92.

Earlier, in reply to a question why the party had not taken any action against Keshubhai Patel, Javadekar said Patel had never indulged in such activities. He said those suspended had been criticising the party leadership and the Gujarat government and raising their personal issues in the media which, the party felt, was against its discipline. There were several party fora available to them to raise their grievances, but they chose to go to the media and remained defiant to the party’s warnings.

Javadekar said that the people of Gujarat wanted development and they had full faith in the leadership of Narendra Modi. The party is confident that the BJP government will get a third term in Gujarat, he added.

Lamenting the downslide in the BJP, a senior party leader said, “Today we are not sure whether we will be able retain over 100 Lok Sabha seats in the 2009 Lok Sabha election”.

Differences with its long-term allies like the Shiv Sena and Trinamool Congress are also growing as was evident in the presidential election.

Even in Karnatka, where the BJP is sharing power with the Janata Dal (Secular), differences between the coalition partner are seemingly increasing.

A senior leader said that the party is not only losing its potential allies but also its ideological base, as the Sangh parivar is not too happy with the party. The RSS is said to be unhappy with Advani, who is trying to regain his old position and control over the party.

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