Gandhinagar: Former Gujarat Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel seems to be returning to active politics after almost five years in political exile. And this has set tongues wagging in the state's political circles.

Some analysts feel that bringing in Patel may enable the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) take on its arrogant Chief Minister Narendra Modi, who has been defying its leadership in more ways than one.

Patel, one of the founders of the party in Gujarat, had been virtually sidelined since the 2007 assembly elections. But a surprise invitation from the BJP to Patel to attend the party's upcoming national executive meeting in Mumbai has led to considerable speculation.

Patel has not said whether he will go to Mumbai. Some see his silence as part of his wait and watch strategy. He is waiting for Narendra Modi to make his next move. If Modi attends the Mumbai meet, Patel may skip it. Although considered one of its most charismatic leaders, Modi has been having increasing problems with the BJP leadership.

Annoyed with the party for accommodating his bête noire Sanjay Joshi in the national executive, Modi did not attend the last executive meeting. He also didn't campaign in this year's state elections.

BJP's former minister of state Gordhan Zadaphia is hinting this may well be true. Zadaphia told IANS that the invitation to Keshubhai could mean that Modi's "political isolation has begun in the party".

Very few buy this, but Zadaphia's statement cannot be dismissed if one looks at developments taking shape in the state.

In recent times, Patel has blasted the Modi government and even alleged that the whole of Gujarat was living in fear. Without naming Modi, Patel alleged that there was no execution of government programmes, and what Gujarat was witnessing was just publicity.

Patel has addressed a number of social and community programmes in the last three months but the party has neither stopped him nor taken any action for criticising the BJP's own government. In contrast, only five years back, Patel was stopped from attending the Patel community's functions.

According to political analyst Hemant Shah, the Patels in Gujarat are unhappy with the Modi regime. In the March Mansa assembly by-election, a constituency dominated by upper caste Patels, the Congress defeated the BJP after 17 long years.

A fortnight ago, barely 5,000 Patels attended a meeting where Modi was present. But just three months back, Keshubhai Patel addressed a massive Patel gathering at Sidsar of Rajkot district.

As of now, out of every 100 votes caste by Patels, the BJP gets 70 and the Congress 30.

Any further dent in the BJP's vote bank is bound to harm the party. In such a scenario, Patel will prove to be an asset when elections are held next -- if he sticks to his guns. Elections are due in December 2012.

Patel was once a formidable force in Gujarat but he got marginalized as Modi's stature grew. After the 2002 communal violence, Modi continued to lead the BJP to victory in elections, cutting the Congress to size. As a result he came to be seen as a national leader.

Now it appears that both in Gujarat and nationally, Modi has run into foes who would like to clip his wings.


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