Kashiram Rana died a few weeks ago, on August 31.
In 1989, the first election I could vote in at age 19, Kashiram became Member of Parliament from my city, Surat.
He won again in 1991, and kept on winning. 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2004: Six terms in all. He sat in the Lok Sabha
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through the prime ministerships of VP Singh, Chandrasekhar, Narasimha Rao, Deve Gowda, I K Gujral, Atal Behari Vajpayee and Manmohan Singh: Seven prime ministers. He served as a union minister and was undefeated when his term ended in 2009. I was 39 that year and had never known another MP for Surat in the 20 years that I had been a voter.
When he died, chief minster Narendra Modi tweeted: "Sad to know of demise of Shri Kashiram Rana. Coming from a simple family, he rose to great height & spent his life in service of the people".
If Modi really believed these nice things he said, he had a surprising way of showing it. Rana was denied the ticket to contest from Surat in 2009. A newcomer, Darshana Jhardosh was given it instead. This cannot be because the seat was under threat. Surat is a safe BJP seat, and Kashiram was unconquered. The reason he was elbowed out is that Modi was threatened by the men who built the BJP in Gujarat. Gradually, as he enters his twelfth year as chief minister, Modi has pushed out the men he thought of as his rivals - the men who turned Gujarat from a solid Congress state to a solid BJP state.
Today they have no place in the new BJP. Former chief minister Keshubhai Patel, who was in the cabinet of the government that took power after the Emergency, is forced to rebel against his party. Why? Not because he has a problem with the BJP or its policies. But because Modi will not share power. Former chief minister Suresh Mehta is also out for the same reason. Gordhan Zadafiya, who was Modi's deputy as home minister during those awful days of 2002, is also campaigning against his party, though the anger is all about Modi.
BJP leaders who had to leave the party, allegedly because of Narendra Modi.
After he was told he would not get the BJP ticket, Kashiram stayed at home, moaning to those who would listen about the injustice done to him. He had never been in any party other than the BJP. Reluctantly, he joined Keshubhai in the geriatrics' rebellion. He was pushed out at a point when, purely by seniority, he would have been in the running for a very serious post in the Centre -- home minister, perhaps -- if the Congress lost the next elections.
Across the state -- Mehta in Kutchh, Patel in Saurashtra, Kashiram in South Gujarat -- the old guard has been dismantled.
The Gujarat BJP is today one man. A most charismatic man, yes, and a brilliant organiser, yes. One of the best speakers in India, yes. But only a man. After him, the BJP, which is tumescent with the idea of him conquering Delhi, will be left with a state unit whose entire cadre is loyal first to an individual, to whom they owe their position, not the party or its ideology.
(Aakar Patel is a writer and a columnist. The views expressed are personal.)