Gandhinagar: Keshubhai Patel, who ushered in BJP rule in Gujarat in the 1990s and has revolted against Chief Minister Narendra Modi, on Saturday resigned from the party and announced plans to launch a new outfit which he claims would be the "real BJP".
Addressing a press conference, the 83-year-old former chief minister announced his decision along with the resignation of Kanshiram Rana, a former Union minister, from the party.
"Kanshiram Rana and I, who have served the party for the last 60 years, are very sad to send our resignations, from the party that we have nurtured here, to party president Nitin Gadkari. We are not switching the party but we are going to form the real BJP," Keshubhai said.
The former chief minister launched a stinging attack on Modi saying the party had become a one-man outfit and gone far away from the principles of the BJP. The poor and the middle class have become unhappy with the government and Modi was keeping away from everyone including the media to avoid questioning, he said.
The announcement by Patel, who was leading an anti-Modi group within the state BJP ahead of the Gujarat Assembly elections (due in December), was expected for quite some time, and the formation of the new party would result in a triangular fight.
Though a powerful OBC leader during his heydays, what impact his departure would have on the party remains to be seen since he has been marginalised in the state politics for quite sometime now.
In Gujarat, considered the Hindutva forces` laboratory, Keshubhai had emerged as a powerful leader of the numerically strong Patel community, which is the backbone of BJP`s support base. The saffron party is in power in the state for the last 15 years.
"BJP has not remained the real BJP which we had formed by working for the last 50 years. This party has become a one-man party and gone far away from its principals," Keshubhai said, targeting Modi.
"I will tomorrow announce the formation of our new party," he added.
"The present BJP has gone miles away from democracy and has become insensitive towards the people," Keshubhai said.
In the last 10 years, people were suffering, decisions of courts were not being respected, women and children were suffering from malnutrition, and if the parents of missing children wanted to meet the chief minister, they were turned away, he said.
"In this situation, I cannot remain silent and be a mute spectator, and that is the reason I have decided to form a new party which will be the real BJP," he said.
Modalities of forming the new party were being worked out, he said.
Sources close to Keshubhai said the new party would contest all the 182 Assembly seats.
Keshubhai was unceremoniously removed as Gujarat chief minister in 2001 by the BJP leadership; Modi replaced him.
"At this ripe age, I am not forming a new party for grabbing power, as people have given me enough. My only aim is to give a better alternative to the people," Keshubhai said.
Rana, a powerful leader from Surat, who was the union textile minister in the NDA government, said, "Vajpayeeji had once told Modi to follow `Raj-dharma`, and inspired by that, we have decided to follow `Praja-Dharma`".
Keshubhai enjoys support of a section of the Sangh Parivar in Gujarat, including RSS `pracharaks` and members of VHP.
Former minister of state for home in the Modi government, Gordhan Zadafia, who later formed his own Maha-Gujarat Janta Party, had some time ago said that he would merge his outfit with Keshubhai`s party.