A group of senior Gujarat BJP leaders have warned the central party and the RSS that, unless Chief Minister Narendra Modi took steps to improve affairs beyond the hype, victory will not be easy in the assembly polls later this year.
The leaders met, among others, BJP president Rajnath Singh to convey that, the ground situation was not optimistic despite Modi’s claims of a smooth sailing.
Singh heard out the leaders who wanted their representation to be treated in confidence. They feared that Modi would get after them — as he had done before — and create problems for anyone critical of him.
According to these leaders, including a former deputy chief minister and two former Union ministers, the 2004 Lok Sabha poll results in Gujarat could not be ignored and “the ground has slipped further.”
The Congress had edged past the BJP in 92 of 182 assembly segments in the 2004 polls. In the 2002 polls, the BJP had won 127 seats. The BJP was yet to recover Saurashtra, South and North Gujarat areas where local leaders were an aggrieved lot.
The party’s stronghold remained only central Gujarat — in and around Ahmedabad region — where the voters were communally polarized. Congress chief
Sonia Gandhi’s rallies in Gujarat had drawn spontaneous crowds of tribals and backward classes at two places recently, they said.
Accusing Modi of “autocratic functioning”, they alleged that the state government was slipping on pledge to abolish
octroi, programmes dealing with elimination of poverty and the upliftment of tribals. The leaders said no central BJP or RSS leader was willing to tick off Modi for fear of his dangling the threat to quit and create a crisis. He has had his way in filling the state BJP with his loyalists.
While the police were facing the charges of fake order, their record in routing policing had also fallen sharply.
The leaders said Modi had been unable to check the suicide rate among farmers — 150 in the last two years — a figure rated high by Gujarat’s standard. They also drew the central party’s attention to the deteriorating security situation in the state, with reports of rape and attacks on NRIs and tribals.
They referred to Gujarat Animal Husbandary and Fisheries Minister Purshottam Solanki’s decision to quit following the police’s failure to nab culprits blamed for rape of a Koli community girl in Junagadh.
A Gujarat BJP leader said the Kolis were a key factor in more than 30 of the 182 assembly constituencies. The Patels, who made up for 18 per cent of the electorate, had been alienated since the sidelining of Keshubhai Patel, they said.