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Keshubhai Patel asked to resign Monday, October 1, 2001

NDTV Correspondent

Monday, October 1, 2001 (New Delhi):

The BJP leadership has begun an exercise to choose a successor to Gujarat Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel, highly placed party sources said, adding that Keshubhai has been asked to step down by the party high command.

The decision to replace Patel came after a two-hour long meeting Patel had yesterday with Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee which was attended by Home Minister L K Advani, BJP President Jana Krishnamurthy, Vice President Madan Lal Khurana among others.

Soon after the meeting, a high-level committee headed by party President Jana Krishnamurthy was constituted to go into the issue of leadership change.

Some of the names doing the rounds as replacements to Keshubhai Patel are:
  • Gujarat's Minister of State for Heavy Industries Vallabh Kathiria, a member of the dominant Patel community same as the present Chief Minister.

  • Gujarat assembly's Speaker Dhirubhai Shah, who could be a consensus candidate.

  • Suresh Mehta, a moderate and the second-most important man in the Gujarat cabinet.

  • BJP National General Secretary Narendra Modi who may have the central leadership's support but not so much at the local level.
Earlier, the BJP high command had declined to rule out a change of guard in Gujarat following the ruling party's defeat in recent by-elections in the state.

The committee will talk to a wide section of state party leaders to elicit views on the choice for successor in the wake of BJP's defeat in the recent bye-elections in Sabarkantha Lok Sabha seat and Sabarmati assembly seat in Advani's Gandhinagar Lok Sabha constituency.

Suresh Mehta leaves for Delhi

Gujarat Industry Minister Suresh Mehta, who is number two in Keshubhai Patel ministry in the state, has left for New Delhi this morning following a summon by BJP high command, as the BJP leadership reportedly began an exercise to choose a successor to Keshubhai Patel.

Besides Mehta, about 20 other ministers and MLAs have left for Delhi this morning, and would meet the high powered committee, that is expected to ascertain the views of party leaders before taking the final decision on leadership change.

Mehta was made the Chief Minister in 1995 when a political crisis erupted due to a revolt by Shankarsinh Vaghela. (With PTI inputs)

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