Former Gujarat chief minister and dissident BJP leader Keshubhai Patel, who had recently escalated his 15-year-old rivalry with his successor Narendra Modi, quit the BJP on Friday to float a third front ahead of the state assembly elections in December.
Patel, who can mar the ruling BJP's prospects in at least 24 assembly segments in Saurashtra and Surat, called a meeting of dissident and sidelined BJP leaders Kashiram Rana, Suresh Mehta, Gordhan Zadaphia and others and decided to float their political outfit. The front, as they called it, will fight the polls against the BJP.
"Keshubhai Patel has not renewed his BJP membership, so he has ceased to be a member of the party. He will tour the entire state to create awareness against the Modi government. A new party headed by Keshubhai will be launched in August," former CM and Patel's colleague Suresh Mehta said. Neither Patel nor any central BJP leader was available for comment.
Patel will address public meetings and functions in BJP bastions Ahmedabad, Rajkot, Surat and Vadodara, which have nearly 50 of the state's 182 assembly constituencies.
Patel, who was ousted by Modi in 2001, has told the party high command that if Modi is not removed, he would oppose the CM in the assembly polls.
"The BJP high command is spineless and all central leaders have surrendered to Modi's diktats. So, we will ensure that Modi is defeated in the assembly polls," said Zadaphia, who had quit the BJP ahead of the 2007 assembly polls.