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October 6, 2001 - October 6, 2001

Live webcast for the swearing-in ceremony Saturday, October 6, 2001

Source : Times News Network
AHMEDABAD: Keshubhai Patel may not have known bite from byte, but Chief Minister-designate Narendra Modi is believed to be a whiz with computers. Or, at least, that is what an official government release would want you to believe.

According to the release, Modi's swearing-in ceremony on Sunday will be webcast live on the internet. This is the first time in the country that the ceremony is going live on the Net. Modi is believed to be a wizard with computers. He even has his personal website at www.narendramodi.com on which the swearing ceremony will be webcast from 10.30 am onwards. Fibre optic cables are being laid at the venue specially for the purpose.

Modi has been using the Net for the past seven years and was responsible for the creation of a computerised database of party workers five years back.

He may not yet have been sworn in as yet but his e-mail address surprisingly reads cm@narendramodi.com. There is a belief that because of Modi's interest in computers, the information technology industry may get a boost in the coming months. Not that there is a lot available to boost!

Modi has the advantage of the Gujarat State Wide Area Network (GSWAN) already being in place. The network connects the various district headquarters to the Sachivalaya and the bureaucrats and politicians have been using it for video-conferencing and other forms of communication.

If the chief minister-designate does take credit for implementing e-governance in the state, he will have to remember that he was not the one to initiate it.

News Source : The Times of India [India's best Newspaper]


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BJP goes for a generational change Saturday, October 6, 2001

BY SMITA GUPTA, TIMES NEWS NETWORK
NEW DELHI: In seeking an image makeover for its party in states where it is in power and with elections round the corner, the BJP is clearly going in for a generational change. Less than a year back in UP, Ram Prakash Gupta, 79, made way for Rajnath Singh, 50, as CM. And on Sunday, Narendra Modi, 51, will be sworn in as Gujarat CM, replacing Keshubhai Patel, 71.

In addition, in Uttaranchal, where assembly elections will be held along with UP early next year, the BJP has been contemplating to replace CM Nityanand Swami with a younger man, such as Union minister of state for surface transport BC Khanduri, who at 67, is his junior by eight years.

Party sources say that if Swami is replaced, it will be when there are less than six months left for the assembly elections. So the new CM will not have to get himself elected to the assembly in the interim. The elections appear to be slated for April, just over six months away. Once the dates are fixed, a change is possible, sources say.

In Jharkhand, where elections are not due till 2005, it is no accident that CM Babulal Marandi is just 43. He scored over Karia Munda, 65, now Union minister for khadi and village industries.

BJP sources say that both Rajnath Singh and Narendra Modi both personify youthful vigour and have a reputation of being ‘‘doers’’: If Singh has demonstrated, in a series of administrative and party decisions, that he is ‘‘on top’’, Modi has been sent to Gandhinagar to turn around the image of an old and tired party in Gujarat.

Singh demonstrated his decisiveness by sacking two troublesome ministers, Naresh Aggarwal and Ashok Yadav, announced a hike in the salaries of primary school teachers, introduced a new reservation policy, as well as played an active role in the ‘‘Ek Raat, Ek Gaon’’ programme. He has also begun to crack down on SIMI activists and madrasas with gusto.

Now it will be Modi — who has a similar reputation for muscular efficiency — to prove his mettle. He has a year and a half time to make the earthquake and the Madhavpura bank scam seem just a distant memory as well as reverse the poll trends, as seen in the panchayat and civic polls and also in the recent assembly by-election in Sabarmati in which the Congress trounced the BJP.

News Source : The Times of India [India's best Newspaper]


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Modi will have to draw on his reserves Saturday, October 6, 2001

BY YUSUF KHAN, TIMES NEWS NETWORK
AHMEDABAD: Narendra Modi, shunted unceremoniously out of Gujarat for nearly four years, is back at the helm of affairs in the state. But it will be an uphill task for him to take on the Congress-led Opposition while managing various groups within the BJP.

In his earlier 'avatar' he was a king-maker who managed to install Keshubhai Patel as chief minister not once, but twice. An enigmatic personality in Gujarat politics, he is loved and hated equally both within his party and outside.

However, the street-smart politician, who was instrumental in popularising the BJP not only in Gujarat but also in other parts of the country, would find it difficult to accomplish the task of regaining the lost glory of the BJP and bringing it back to power within a short span of 18 months.

Modi first came into the limelight when he masterminded the strategy to bring the BJP to power in the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation in 1984 on the Hindutva plank, much before the Ayodhya movement had gained momentum.

Besides routing the Congress in the civic body, the move also contributed to Modi's rising popularity graph within the BJP. He was the brain behind two national-level 'yatras' undertaken by Advani in 1991, from Somnath to Ayodhya and by Murli Manohar Joshi from Kanyakumari to Kashmir.

While Modi managed to remain in the good books of national leaders and was consulted on many national matters, his style of functioning, particularly his abrasive behaviour with party colleagues and seniors, gradually alienated him from the state BJP leaders.

Admittedly, he continues to enjoy the confidence of BJP leaders Advani and Vajpayee because of the manner in which he handled the party affairs in Haryana and Rajasthan. But his prolonged absence and not-so-friendly disposition towards senior colleagues has distanced him from many a senior Gujarat BJP leader who have grudgingly accepted his ascendancy to the chief minister's throne.

It remains to be seen how Modi handles regional 'satraps' of the state BJP, some of whom were contenders for the chief ministership.

he BJP in Gujarat has not yet been able to come up with a leader who has a state-wide acceptance. As a result, regional bigwigs like Keshubhai Patel in Saurashtra, Shankersinh Vaghela in North Gujarat and Kashiram Rana in South Gujarat, besides city-level leaders like Ashok Bhatt and Harin Pathak, were instrumental in bringing about the electoral victory of the party.

With Modi taking over as CM, it will be difficult to gauge whether these leaders would assist him in revitalising the party so as to recapture power in the assembly elections.

Keshubhai, Suresh Mehta, Rana and Assembly Speaker Dhirubhai Shah, who all were contenders for the chief ministership, are unlikely to take kindly to the elevation of Modi.

North Gujarat, once a BJP bastion, has started crumbling with party stalwart A K Patel's humiliating defeat in Mehsana in the last parliamentary elections. Here Shankersinh Vaghela has already made dent, first by winning the Patan seat and later retaining Sabarkantha for his Man Friday Madhusudan Mistry. BJP leader and minister for major irrigation Nitin Patel does not wield much influence in the region while Jayanarayan Vyas, an efficient minister, was eased out by Keshubhai.

Only in central Gujarat has the BJP been able to improve its position marginally. While it wrested Godhra, Vadodara rural and Vadodara parliamentary seats from the Congress in the last parliamentary elections, its share in the Assembly, however, declined from the region. But here, too, the party does not have any leader of consequence except Nalin Bhatt and Jaspal Singh.

In sending Modi back to Gujarat, the BJP central leadership seems to have taken a calculated risk. In the past a leadership change at a crucial junctu

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BJP, RSS big-wigs to attend swearing-in Saturday, October 6, 2001

BY ANIL PATHAK, TIMES NEWS NETWORK
GANDHINAGAR: It is Narendra Modi’s swearing-in on Sunday and everyone is invited. The CM-designate has pulled out all stops in making his maiden ascent to power a mega event.

The swearing-in ceremony, to be held at the helipad ground here on Sunday, is going to be a mega event for which a big shamiana will be erected to accommodate at least 30,000 people, including 1,000 BJP workers from every district of the state.

The event will see a galaxy of BJP and RSS big-wigs, including film stars-turned-politicians Shatrughan Sinha and Vinod Khanna.

A special platform will be created for the main function, where the oath of office and secrecy will be administered by governor S.S. Bhandari and at least 12 ministers.

Invitations have been issued to the who’s who of the BJP and also the NDA allies.

The ceremony is also expected to be a big media event with more than 400 mediamen, including teams of TV channels, coming from New Delhi and Mumbai to capture on camera one of the most media-savvy politicians in the BJP.

The special invitees to the function are Union home minister L.K. Advani, NDA chairman George Fernandes and chief ministers of Uttar Pradesh, Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Uttaranchal and that of Jammu and Kashmir.

The state government has already received confirmation from Rajnath Singh, Prakash Singh Badal and Farooq Abdullah. Besides them, Union ministers Arun Jaitley, Sushma Swaraj, I.D. Swami, Kashiram Rana, Vallabh Kathiria and the top brass of the RSS and the VHP are also arriving here to participate in the function. The delegation from Nagpur, which is the RSS headquarters, is expected to be quite heavy.

State programme implementation committee chairman Vijay Rupani, who is entrusted with the work of coordinating the event, said the function would be unique and have a touch of the new changes taking place under the leadership of Modi. The saffron touch would be there for all to see.

Modi’s critics are, however, surprised at all the fanfare because he told the BJP MLAs at the meeting on Thursday that they need not spend on newspaper advertisements giving congratulatory messages.

Instead, he told them to donate the money for quake relief. Reports indicate that every MLA has been told to bring in at least 500 workers from the constituency for the event which would mean a huge expenditure on transport.

"In any case, what is there to celebrate. We have just lost two byelections and our party is in a deep mess. We should tell the people we now mean business and that cannot be done through such tamasha," said an MLA from Saurashtra.

News Source : The Times of India [India's best Newspaper]


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Has Keshubhai made a tactical retreat? Saturday, October 6, 2001

TIMES NEWS NETWORK
AHMEDABAD: Keshubhai Patel's meek surrender to the BJP leadership's directive to step down and usher in Narendra Modi as his successor is not going down well with his supporters, especially those who form what is commonly known as the 'Saurashtra lobby', or the 'Patel lobby'. But the possibility of the outgoing chief minister having made a strategic retreat only to strike at a later date is not being ruled out.

It was a very dejected-looking Patel who proposed Modi's name as the legislature party chief, and an equally sullen Suresh Mehta who seconded the proposal. Their reluctance in doing so was written all over their faces, and so was their helplessness to do anything about it.

And while Patel may have talked of 'sanyas' during his failed attempt to brow-beat the BJP leadership into allowing him to continue as chief minister, he is now very emphatic that he is going to remain in active politics.

In fact, those who have watched closely the political developments unfold in the last week believe that there is no doubt that Patel will create trouble for Modi sooner than later. The happy ending, the touching of feet and the exchange of sweets between the two estranged leaders, could be just a momentary phase before the real action starts.

And that could happen as soon as Modi picks his council of ministers. Given the present indications, a lot of ministers from Keshubhai's cabinet are likely to be axed. This could immediately foment trouble for the new government.

"Modi obviously can't please everybody; there is bound to be a realignment of forces in the ruling party with MLAs left out of the ministry dissenting and Patel emerging as their rallying point," says a Patel camp follower.

It is true that Patel was in mood for rebellion after he came back from New Delhi, after getting the marching orders. But he soon realised that he did not have enough support to show open defiance. Some 30 MLAs, including ministers, had pledged support to whatever he did, but sanity prevailed because of the sobering intervention of some senior Patel leaders like former Union minister AK Patel.

In the heat of the moment, even factions aligned to Suresh Mehta had pledged support to Patel. This was manifest in Mehta's announcement that he would be unwilling to work as a minister under Modi.

However, Patel himself realised that he did not have the required strength for an open revolt and it would be better to temporarily retreat and allow Modi to face the music at a later date.

The confidence that things would go wrong for Modi stem from the belief in the Patel camp that the CM-designate, who has a history of making friends as well as foes, is likely to alienate a large section of the BJP because of his individualistic and abrasive style of functioning .

Says a Patel MLA from Saurashtra, "Everybody knows that Vaghela revolted from the BJP because of Modi, but even when Modi was shifted out of Gujarat and made party in-charge of Haryana and Himachal Pradesh, there were demands from leaders of these states for his recall."

Patel's best bet in the future would, of course, is the 47 Patel MLAs -- of a total of 116 BJP MLAs in Gujarat. Said one non-Patel minister, "The Patels have enjoyed absolute power for quite some time now and they won't appreciate the wind of change."

The other issue on which the outgoing CM could take up the cudgels in future is development of Saurashtra. While many in the BJP had accused him of playing "peninsular politics" (looking after interests of only Saurashtra at the cost of other regions of Gujarat), it is a fact the region saw a flurry of projects, especially in the area of drinking water, during his regime.

This will be an area where Modi will have to be particularly cautious because slackening of activity in Saurashtra, where the Patels are most powerful, could give a reason to Keshubhai to get into combat mode. If reports are anything to go by, Modi is conscious of the Patel-Saurashtra backlash and has already made a dent in the lobby through his friend and Amreli MP Dilip Sanghani.

News Source : The Times of India [India's best Newspaper]


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