There was embarrassment in store for the poll bound BJP in Gujarat when the wife of late Haren Pandya, one of its rising stars snuffed out in the prime of life , pitched into the election battle as the candidate of rebel patriarch Keshubhai Patel’s regional outfit.
”I am contesting from my husband’s constituency of Ellisbridge in Ahmedabad seeking justice for him from the people’s court,” she added, announcing her candidature on Thursday.
Haren Pandya , a former BJP minister earned the ire of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi when he refused to vacate his Ellisbridge seat to enable him to get elected to the Vidhan Sabha in 2001. Modi had to contest from Rajkot to fulfil the mandatory requirement as he was not an elected legislator when he became the chief minister replacing Keshubhai Patel. Pandya was killed on March 26, 2003 while on a morning walk in a plush part of the city. Haren Pandya was earlier the minister of state for home in the Keshubhai Patel government.
Jagruti makes it clear that her husband’s killing was a political murder and her decade long fight for justice has been in vain. ”I shall nevertheless continue with my battle undaunted, “ she maintains.
“Justice for Haren" is her poll cry, as she pitches in while expressing her dejection with the BJP. ”My husband gave his life for the party but he was betrayed both in life and death,” she points out, her voice quivering as she tried vainly to get a hold over her emotions.
The wife of the former BJP minister targets Modi without naming him. ”From a party with an ideology it is now a one man outfit bereft of all that once constituted its core. And it is for this reason that I have chosen the Gujarat Parivartan Party headed by Keshubhai Patel as it still follows Deen Dayal Upadhyaya’s political beliefs,” she adds.
It is common knowledge that the estrangement between Modi and Pandya began in February 2002 after the former took over as chief minister and wanted the latter to vacate his Ellisbridge seat in Ahmedabad to enable him to get elected to the Vidhan Sabha. Pandya refused to do so and Modi had to contest from Rajkot. Pandya’s deposition before the ‘peoples commission’ on the 2002 communal riots that followed the Godhra train carnage on February 27, 2002 that reportedly implicated the Gujarat chief minister further fuelled the raging fire between the two.
Haren’s father Vithal Pandya was direct in pointing fingers at the Gujarat chief minister while his wife Jagruti has all along held that the wrong people had been implicated in the murder while the real killers went scot free.
A Pota court had sentenced 9 people to life imprisonment and three to rigorous imprisonment in June 2007 for the murder but the High Court in August 2011 acquitted all of them of the charge and held that the CBI had botched up the case.
Jagruti has been demanding reinvestigation of the case which was probed by the CBI during NDA rule when L.K.Advani was the home minister. Interestingly, it was the crime branch of the Gujarat police then headed by D.G.Vanzara which first investigated the case. Later when it was handed over to the CBI, a Gujarat cadre IPS officer Abhay Chudasama was temporarily transferred to the CBI for a month to help out with the case. Both are now in jail in connection with the Sohrabuddin Sheikh fake encounter case while the then minister of state for home is out on bail in the same case.
Jagruti is in the fray for justice in her husband’s case.
With speculation rife that the Congress may not put up a candidate against her, the contest can well turn into a straight one between an old BJP loyalists wife and the BJP. This will split the party cadres and may well put the ruling party in an awkward spot. For the record, Jagruti is fighting the election in a triangular contest with BJP's Rakesh Shah, while Congress is yet to announce the name of its candidate on the seat. Ellisbridge is a BJP bastion in peril.