Amid LK Advani’s seat saga, all eyes are now on the Ahmedabad East seat, where seven-time MP Harin Pathak, an Advani loyalist, is awaiting his re-nomination, even as the party is undergoing a generational as well as caste-based power shift.

The BJP has announced the candidature of an MLA to replace sitting MP Rajendrasinh Rana, another Advani camp follower, from Bhavnagar. She belongs to the backward and dominant Koli caste while Rana is a Kshatriya. Gujarat, which has largely seen a two-party system since 1995, has now emerged as a virtually one-party State, thanks to the diminishing role of the Congress.

Also, political power within the BJP has somewhat shifted in what seems to be a ‘Mandalisation’ of the party. In a recent public meeting, Narendra Modi himself said the BJP is no longer an upper caste party. Clearly, the BJP’s old guard, including Pathak, is apprehensive. The BJP’s recent welcome of Dalit leader Udit Raj and LJS chief Ramvilas Paswan pointed to this change in emphasis.

At the central level, too, the party followed this policy of generational change. The relocation of senior leaders like MM Joshi and Kalraj Mishra in Uttar Pradesh and fast-forwarding party ticket to ‘turncoats’ like Jagdambika Pal (UP) and Ramkripal Yadav (Bihar) seem to be part of this exercise.

Since he became CM in 2001, Modi has apparently conducted a “social engineering” — a word made popular by former BJP stalwart and ideologue Govindacharya after the Mandal episode.

Over the past 13 years, many BJP seniors, including Keshubhai Patel, have gradually become irrelevant in Gujarat. Most of these were from the “upper castes” and the once-powerful Patels. They have been replaced by new BC leaders.

Interestingly, in 2001, when Keshubhai protested against Modi being anointed as CM, Advani had advised Patel to make way for “younger leadership”. He is likely to be ruing it now.

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