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Tuesday, October 02, 2001

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Keshubhai may not go without a fight

By Neena Vyas

NEW DELHI, OCT. 1. The consultation process to find a successor to the Gujarat Chief Minister, Mr Keshubhai Patel, is almost complete - ``almost'' because in the midst of the consultation the central party leaders received a fax message from some 25 MLAs, believed to be Mr. Keshubhai Patel's loyalists, complaining that they had been left out of the process which was not fair.

It remains to be seen now whether the BJP high command would summon these MLAs for a ``hearing'' in the next few days.

At the end of the day of consultations with Ministers, MLAs and State leaders, Mr. Krishnamurthi and Mr. Thakre were huddled together comparing notes on hearings.

By tomorrow, they are expected to meet again with the Prime Minister and the Union Home Minister to arrive at some conclusion.

The high command seems to be in favour of Mr. Modi replacing Mr. Keshubhai Patel, but he is not going out without a fight. Already MLAs have been encouraged to voice their opposition to Mr. Modi.

After the Shankarsinh Waghela episode when the State unit split, the BJP is wary of taking party MLAs for granted, especially now that the party is no longer the top favourite in the State.

It may be recalled that Mr. Modi was credited with having created a strong base for the BJP in the State and at one time he was the man behind Mr. Patel. Later they fell out and Mr. Patel complained that as the organisation general secretary he was interfering with the administration. He was also held responsible for the growing factionalism in the State. Mr. Modi was then brought to Delhi and told not to meddle in Gujarat.

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