“Chief Minister trying to involve me in Sanjiv Bhatt case”

Gujarat Congress president Arjun Modhvadia on Sunday wrote an open letter to Chief Minister Narendra Modi challenging him to arrest him “implicating” him in the “false” complaint of a police constable, K.D. Panth, against the arrested IPS officer, Sanjiv Bhatt.

The complaint of Mr. Panth, on the basis of which Mr. Bhatt was arrested on September 30 and is still behind bars, became a sensational issue when an advocate Vijay Kanara, also the vice-president of the State Congress Legal Cell, approached the acting Chief Justice of the Gujarat High Court late on Saturday night, seeking protection against the police arresting him.

Mr. Kanara, said to have become the target of the Gujarat police because he had drafted the affidavit filed by Mr. Panth before the Supreme Court, was appointed amicus curiae in the Zakia Jafri case accusing Mr. Modi and 62 others in the 2002 communal riots in the State. In the affidavit, Mr. Panth, who in 2002 was the official driver of Mr. Bhatt, had supported the IPS officer's claim that he was present at the meeting convened by the Chief Minister on the night of February 27, 2002, in which he allegedly “directed” the police to “allow Hindus to vent their anger on Muslims.”

Mr. Panth subsequently filed a complaint at the Ghatlodiya police station claiming that Mr. Bhatt had “threatened and forced” him to sign the affidavit. He had also alleged that before signing it, Mr. Bhatt and Mr. Kanara had taken him to Mr. Modhvadia's residence where he was told that the central government had made all preparations for upstaging the Modi government and that the Chief Minister would not survive for long.

After seeing some hectic police activity around his office and residence, Mr. Kanara rushed to the residence of the acting Chief Justice A.L. Dave, seeking his protection. Mr. Dave directed him and his advocate colleague B.M. Mangukiya, also a Congress sympathiser, to Justice R.H. Shukla, who after hearing his plea directed the police not to take any action till the afternoon of Monday when his petition in this regard would be taken up for hearing in the High Court.

Mr. Kanara in his petition has alleged that he was being “used” as a conduit by the State government to reach Mr. Modhvadia, the actual target besides Mr. Bhatt, who had been arrested only because he had named the Chief Minister and the former Minister of State for Home Affairs, Amit Shah, implicating them in the murder of another former Minister of State for Home, Haren Pandya.

Mr. Modhvadia in his letter to Mr. Modi said the Chief Minister was deliberately trying to drag his name in the Sanjiv Bhatt case to give it a political colour. He said Mr. Bhatt was a very important witness in all the three cases against number one accused Mr. Modi — the Zakia Jafri case on 2002 communal riots, the Haren Pandya murder and the attempt to subvert danseuse Mallika Sarabhai's petition in the Supreme Court on the 2002 communal riots. It was thus the government's duty to give him full protection.

Mr. Modhvadia said despite being an elected representative of the people in the Assembly and the state president of the country's largest political party, Mr. Modi was illegally spying on his activities and had ordered surveillance of his mobile phone. He said his phone call records had been submitted in the district court in connection with Mr. Bhatt's bail application in which government pleader S.V. Raju, told the court that he had spoken to Mr. Kanara the day Mr. Panth had filed the affidavit before the amicus curiae.

Mr. Modhvadia said, as the Congress president, he must have spoken to Mr. Kanara a number of times, but the attempt to link it with a criminal complaint by a constable was purely politically motivated. Accusing Mr. Modi of being the “crudest political leader the country has ever produced since independence,” Mr. Modhvadia said now that most of his “secrets” were out, Mr. Modi had become “desperate to save his own skin.” The arrest of Mr. Bhatt and the attempt to implicate him in the false case was proof of his desperation, he said.

Claiming that Mr. Modi was the “most failed” chief minister contrary to his own claim of being the most successful, Mr. Modhvadia dared him to put him under arrest in the false case. “I have never done anything wrong to be scared of your police, but if you dare touch me, I will show you what law is,” he warned.