Modi needn't fret on Keshubhai: Gujarat hates party-poopers

By S Muralidharan

Ahmedabad: Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi should rest assured. Keshubhai Patel will never dent his poll prospects. The history of bipolarity in the state’s politics rules out any scope for a third player in its power games. Keshubhai, a former BJP  Chief Minister, might have stitched together a third front, an amalgamation of elements inimical to Modi, but going by the past, he has little chance of changing the political narrative of the state.

“Voters in Gujarat traditionally have die-hard allegiance to either the Congress or the BJP. Deserters from the two major parties are seen as traitors, which ultimately proves fatal for a formidable third front,” said a political observer. The attempts of Chimanbhai Patel and Shankersinh Vaghela to create a third front were only a limited success. They gained power for a brief period but left no lasting footprint of a political alternative.

Indulal Yagnik, the hero of the Mahagujarat movement who fought for statehood on the basis of a linguistic identity, floated Nutan Gujarat Janata Parishad. Reuters

The challenge before Keshubhai's Gujarat Parivartan Party is formidable. Breakaway parties and third fronts have had a dubious record of miscarriages in the state’s two-party landscape over the last 50 years. Aborted attempts to form third fronts started with the attainment of statehood in 1960 itself.

Indulal Yagnik, the hero of the Mahagujarat movement who fought for statehood on the basis of a linguistic identity, floated Nutan Gujarat Janata Parishad. The outfit attained power in the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation but wound up by 1962.

Former Chief Minister Chimanbhai Patel also launched two outfits in his life to break the political bipolarity. In 1974-75, he formed the Kisan Mazdoor Lok Paksha and in 1990-91 the Janata Dal Gujarat.

KMLP bagged 12 seats in the assembly elections of 1975 and extended support to the Babubhai Patel government but later also became the reason for its fall. The outfit disappeared from public memory soon.

When Patel became CM for the second time in 1990, he was backed by the BJP. But the coalition did not last and an ambitious Patel went on to form Janata Dal (S) and formed a government with Congress support. Patel’s demise led to the merger of Janata Dal (S) with the Congress.

The BJP first tasted power on its own in 1995 and formed the government in Gandhinagar, but within six months Shankersinh Vaghela spearheaded a revolt and enacted the famous ‘Khajuraho’ revolt - where he spirited party MLAs to Khajuraho to prevent them from being poached. He later formed the Rashtriya Janata Party (RJP), which even formed the government with Congress support and later merged with it. For the record, the outfit secured only four seats in the assembly elections.

The efforts to launch a third force did not stop with the advent of the powerful Narendra Modi on the scene in 2001. The brewing intra-party resentment against him resulted in the formation of the MahaGujarat Janata Party (MJP), headed by Godhan Zadaphia, in 2009. However, the party, after a few miserable electoral outings, disbanded itself to merge with the newly-formed outfit launched by Keshubhai Patel in August this year.

A disgruntled Congressman, Ratubhai Adani, who was unhappy with Madhavsinh Solanki and the Congress high command, broke loose in 1982 to form the Rashtriya Congress. It vanished in a hurry without making any impact on the politics of the state. Former Gujarat Chief Minister Babubhai Patel formed Lok Swaraj Manch and Janata Morcha which also went into oblivion.

Similarly, in 1991, former Gujarat Finance Minister Dinesh Shah formed Surajya Parishad but it disappeared without a trace. Ditto for parties such as Gujarat Swatantra Paksh, Jana Sangh, Sanstha Congress, Krishak Samaj, and Bhartiya Lok Dal.

Even the Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) and Lok Janshakti Party (LJP) have failed to make any inroads in the political landscape of Gujarat despite being present for a decade now. The Gujarat Parivartan Party would do well to remember the failed bids from others to capture power.

Why have the efforts to form the third front or breakaway parties been such a disaster in Gujarat? Analysts say people of the state prefer parties which have the scope to become partners in governance either in the state or at the centre. Gujarat is largely a place for business-minded people who like a politically stable environment which is conducive to their activity. Third fronts or smaller parties don’t promise them stability.

"It is an extension of the businessman psyche to safeguard his interest. Voters feel a third front government is neither helpful in the state or at the Centre," said a political observer, adding that breakaway factions from major parties are seen as opportunistic. "The RJP floated by Shankersinh Vaghela was seen as subversion of the people's mandate for BJP. Realising the mood of the people he had to merge his party with the Congress," he said.


Updated Date: Aug 11, 2012 14:18 PM

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