New Delhi: The infighting in Gujarat BJP spilled out in the open on Wednesday after Chief Minister Narendra Modi's archrival Keshubhai Patel came out in the open against Modi, attacking his way of functioning. Patel also hinted at his support to party rebels.
The open rebellion by Patel against Modi comes just ahead of the Assembly elections in the states scheduled for later this year.
Patel, who had publicly maintained a stoic silence and was managing the anti-Modi activities from behind the scene so far, used an Independence Day public function as a platform to criticise Modi, marking the beginning of a new level of infighting in BJP.
UNDER ATTACK: Keshubhai attacks Modi's way of functioning and tells people to 'open up'.
"People's problems were not being given priority at all in the state. MLAs were suspended for indiscipline. But what about those who are indisciplined by being unjust to the people of Gujarat," Patel told the gathering, without naming Modi, after hoisting the Tricolour at a school in Surat.
Giving an example of the 'injustice' meted out by Modi, Patel said: "MLAs who had gone to represent people's problems were made to wait for hours... while industrialists were ushered into the office in five minutes."
Indirectly telling the people to 'open up', he said: "Where is the people's rule? Today (on Independence Day) we should decide. We do not want to enter into a fight, but none should fear telling the truth and when it is the right time, one should make up his/her mind."
Patel said during BJP party meetings and also in the state Assembly only those close to Modi were allowed to speak and who carried a differing view-point never given a chance.
"Those who want to speak the truth are even threatened and raids alleging electricity pilferage are conducted on their premises. But there is no need to feel threatened by such acts," he added. Several of Gujarat BJP's rebel leaders, including most of the suspended MLAs were present in the meeting.
Patel's attack on Modi comes days after other two senior leaders of BJP Kanshiram Rana and Suresh Mehta had attended the rebel meeting held on the outskirts of Ahmedabad to plan their strategy against Modi. It is learnt that the veteran leader has also indicated to the party leadership that he will not campaign for BJP in the coming polls.
Patels are a powerful community in the state comprising about 20 per cent of the population. Keshubhai and five recently suspended MLAs — Gordhan Zadafia, Dhiru Gajera, Bauku Unghad, Balu Tanti and Bechar Bhadani — belong to the community.
The rebel MLAs, who are campaigning against Modi by organising farmers meeting at taluka level, have maintained that they have the blessings of Keshubhai Patel. State BJP general secretary Vijay Rupani, when contacted, declined to comment on the development, saying they will have to study what has been said by Keshubhai.
(With PTI inputs)