After launching tirades against Gujarat chief minister and fellow party colleague Narendra Modi, former chief minister Keshubhai Patel resigned from the BJP today. He, along with former union minister Kanshiram Rana, sent their resignation letters to the party high command, only months ahead of the assembly elections in the state.
Announcing his decision in a press conference today in Gandhinagar, Mr Patel said he is unhappy with the way the party functions now. He said, "I am leaving with a lot of pain. The present BJP has gone miles away from democracy and has become insensitive towards the people." He will now launch a new party, which will contest the assembly polls early next year.
He said, "In this situation, I cannot remain silent and be a mute spectator and that is the reason I have decided to form a new party which will be the real BJP. At this ripe age, I am not forming a new party for power as people have given me enough. My only aim is to give a better alternative to the people of the state."
Along with other senior BJP leaders like Suresh Mehta, Mr Patel has been complaining to the party's central leaders in Delhi of a growing chasm within the party over Mr Modi. He said, "The BJP high command has not paid heed to our concerns." Alleging the central leadership of having bias towards Mr Modi, he said, "Gadkari-ji said small leaders like Sanjay Joshi can be sacrificed for a big leader like Narendra Modi."
Launching fresh attack on Mr Modi, he said, "People are unhappy with the government of Narendra Modi. No one listens to the common people, there is no sympathy for them. This chief minister runs away from people and media as he does not have to answer their queries."
The BJP said it will try to prod Mr Patel to rethink his decision. "Keshubhai Patel is a veteran and much respected leader. He has resigned from the party. We will persuade him not to take any such step in the interest of the nation and the party. We will meet him and convince him," said party leader Rajiv Pratap Rudy to PTI.
Mr Patel's decision to float a new party could see a realignment of anti-Modi forces in the state months ahead of the assembly polls with Mahagujarat Janata Party of former state minister Gordhan Zadafia likely to merge with it. Patel is said to be still enjoying the backing of sections of the Sangh family, including RSS pracharaks and VHP volunteers. Support for him is likely to grow when Mahagujarat Janata Party merges with the new party. Zadafia, while pledging support for Patel, had recently said he would merge his party with the new outfit. Sources close to Mr Patel said his new party will field candidates in all the 182 assembly seats.
Earlier, Mr Patel had decided not to renew his membership of the party. He has been increasingly and publicly critical of chief minister Narendra Modi for being autocratic and intolerant of dissent. In a blog recently, Mr Patel wrote that Gujarat today is worse off than India during the days of the Emergency.
Mr Patel He was unceremoniously replaced by Mr Modi as Chief Minister in 2001 after BJP's defeat in two by-polls. He was once a powerful leader of the OBC community in the Saurashtra region but has been politically marginalised in the state for quite some time now.