Two days ahead of the declaration of the poll results in Gujarat, the BJP high command sprung a surprise, cracking its whip against rebel leaders including former chief minister Keshubhai Patel and former Union minister Kanshiram Rana and two BJP MPs — Vallabhbhai Kathiria and Somabhai Patel.
While Patel and Rana were asked to explain why action should not be taken against them for “sabotaging” the prospects of the BJP, the two MPs were suspended from the primary members of the party for indiscipline.
Party insiders saw the decision as an indication that the top leaders were keeping their fingers crossed over the outcome. Also, many were apprehending a sharp slide in the party’s tally and readying plans to checkmate the rebels who may attempt to create hurdles for Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
Significantly, the BJP high command had resisted thus far action against the rebel leaders though Modi was pressing for such a move before the polls were held. Finally, on Friday, BJP chief Rajnath Singh directed party general secretary Vinay Khatiar to issue the show cause notices and announce the suspension of the two MPs who were accused of sharing dais with Congress leaders.
BJP general secretary Arun Jaitely, in charge of Gujarat, however, dismissed any significance of the timing of the action. “The BJP had to send out a message that it is not so weak-kneed that it cannot act against them for acts of indiscipline.” He did not think that it had to do with the BJP’s assessment of the post-poll scenario. Even after the polls, Keshubhai Patel had made it clear that he would not stop his battle against Modi, whom he accused of being a dictator and destroyer of the BJP set-up.
Both Patel and Rana, who was a minister in the Vajpayee government, was accused of “sabotaging” the party's poll prospects through their public statements which “helped” the ruling BJP's political rivals in the state. Both of them were asked to explain within a week as to why they made such statements "which damaged the party's poll efforts.”