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Justice could not be done to Pandya: Advani

By Manas Dasgupta

AHMEDABAD April 6. The Gujarat Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, today was at the receiving end for the "injustice" he had done to the former Minister of State for Home and Revenue, Haren Pandya, at a meeting to pay homage to the slain leader.

Without naming Mr. Modi, many speakers regretted the injustice meted out to Pandya in denying him ticket to contest the December Assembly elections. The Deputy Prime Minister, L. K. Advani, said the treatment given to the "epitome of party discipline" was "gross injustice".

Many speakers, including the former Chief Minister, Keshubhai Patel, did not mince words to hint that Pandya's killing was a "political murder", contrary to Mr. Advani's claim of him being a "victim of terrorists' bullets". "I have a burden on my soul. Justice could not be done to Pandya,'' Mr. Advani, whose Gandhinagar Lok Sabha constituency includes Pandya's former Ellisbridge Assembly seat, said.

Apparently referring to the proposal to draft Pandya into the central party executive a couple of days before he was killed on March 26, Mr. Advani said "when we were trying to do justice to him, he was gone.'' Mr. Advani said Pandya was one of the most disciplined workers of the party.

Most vociferous in condemning the treatment meted out to Pandya was his political mentor, Mr. Patel, and his father, Vithhalbhai Pandya. Taking Mr. Advani aside as they were climbing down the dais at the Town Hall here, Mr. Vithhalbhai told him: "You are as much responsible for what was done to Haren because you kept silent when injustice was done to him.'' He said he believed that his son's murder was a "political assassination". Mr. Patel said Pandya was a "victim of vindictiveness'. He apparently was referring to the way Mr. Modi stood his ground to refuse Pandya the ticket because the former Minister had refused to vacate his Ellisbridge seat in favour of the Chief Minister. His role at that time, he said, was like "Dronacharya and Bheeshma pitamaha" who could not do anything in the interest of the party. Pandya was "very unhappy" with the treatment given to him by the party and "we could not do anything to unburden him before he fell to assassin's bullets", Mr. Patel said. He alleged attempts were made by some quarters to cancel the meetings to pay homage to Pandya.

The elder Pandya said "what are you people doing, I can see only hatred among all, be it Hindus or Muslims.'' His son, he said, was a "martyr" who sacrificed his life for the cause of the party. "Everything is possible in the present politics, some scapegoats may be found and hoisted as Pandya killers," he was heard telling Mr. Advani.

Mr. Modi sought to stay away from all controversies recalling his "golden days" with Pandya when he was first drafted by the RSS as a "pracharak" in Gujarat more than a decade ago.

PTI reports from Mumbai:

Later, Mr. Advani, while addressing a civic felicitation for the Union Petroleum Minister, Ram Naik, on his completion of 25 years as an elected representative at suburban Borivali, expressed concern over the declining standards in politics, saying "hardly any qualifications" were required to become a politician.

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