Haren Pandya was killed on March 26, 2003. But his political career started to die
slowly after Narendra Modi took charge as Gujarat chief minister on October 7, 2001.
Ajay Umat , TOI, takes you through the last few months of Pandya’s political life
DROPPED FROM TEAM MODI
Modi did not include Pandya, who was earlier the minister of state for home, when he formed his first cabinet. Later, when he expanded the cabinet, Haren was given the revenue portfolio largely due to pressure from the Sangh Parivar and Sanjay Joshi, the BJP general secretary at the time.
ELLISBRIDGE BURNT BRIDGES COMPLETELY
Modi wanted to contest election from Pandya’s Ellisbridge constituency. But Pandya refused to oblige Modi. The CM was so upset that when he saw Pandya in a meeting organized by the then party president in Gujarat, Rajendrasinh Rana, at the Circuit House, he left announcing that he cannot attend a meeting or a function where Pandya was present. Pandya had to leave the venue and both did not see eye to eye from that day.
GODHRA FANNED HATRED
After the Godhra carnage, it was reported that Pandya, during a cabinet meeting, opposed the idea of bringing dead bodies of victims to Ahmedabad. He reportedly reasoned that it could lead to more tension but was asked to shut up by some ministers.
FAMILY CONTINUED TO FIGHT
Pandya’s father Vitthalbhai contested parliamentary polls as an independent against L K Advani in 2004. He lost but the old man sent out a message: the fight for justice would continue. Similarly, Pandya’s wife Jagruti contested assembly elections from Ellisbridge on Keshubhai Patel’s GPP ticket. She too lost.
BJP LEADERSHIP CRITICIZED
Controversy followed the murder. The Modi government faced severe criticism from within the Sangh Parivar and Pandya’s supporters for sidelining the leader. Questions were also raised about not providing him proper security despite threats to his life. Pandya’s death procession was one of the biggest in the history of Gujarat. Some BJP leaders say that upset by the popularity of the slain leader, Modi decided to hold a meeting of BJP legislature party on the day when Pandya’s family organized his ‘besna’. “There was a feeling that Modi did this to prevent leaders from going for the condolence meeting,” says a BJP leader.
Pandya’s wife Jagruti had to run from pillar to post for getting permission for a statue of her slain husband installed. After the BJP-run state government refused to help, finally the Congress, which was in power in Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation passed a resolution and allowed a statue in the Ellisbridge area. Eventually, Advani and Modi unveiled the statue.
On June 7, 2002, the then state IB chief R B Sreekumar was asked by Modi’s principal secretary P K Mishra to find out which minister had met an independent citizen’s tribunal that included former Supreme Court Chief Justice V R Krishna Iyer. Mishra told Sreekumar that Haren Pandya, the then revenue minister, was suspected to be the one involved. Sreekumar was asked to obtain call data records of Pandya’s cellphone. Pandya reportedly told the tribunal that the post-Godhra massacres were orchestrated by Modi. Eventually Pandya resigned from the cabinet.
ELIMINATED, POLITICALLY SPEAKING
In December 2002, Modi did not give a ticket to Pandya despite tremendous pressure from all quarters, including the then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Modi got himself admitted to Civil Hospital in Gandhinagar, complaining of chest pain. Pandya could not contest the election.
SIDELINED IN THE PARTY
Having prevented Pandya from contesting assembly polls, the party leadership ensured that he was not given any important assignment in the party or the government. Senior leaders like L K Advani and Arun Jaitley tried to intervene but in vain. Finally, the Sangh Parivar prevailed and it was decided that in the first week of April Pandya would be given responsibility as party’s national secretary in New Delhi. However, as luck would have it, a week before the likely announcement, Pandya was murdered after a morning walk in the Law Garden area in Ahmedabad.
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