By Mukul Sinha
The earthquake of 26th January, 2001 not only devastated Gujarat but also ended the political careers of two of the most powerful leaders of Gujarat BJP. First was of course Keshubhai, the Chief Minister himself and the other person would be Haren Pandya. Haren Pandya was known to be the right hand man of the Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel in 2001 and the Minister of State (MOS) for Home till Modi arrived in Gujarat. Haren was stripped of his MOS portfolio and made the Revenue Minister in the first Ministry led by Modi in October, 2001.
Narendra Modi, Arun Jaitley along with other BJP Leaders Draping BJP Flag On Haren Pandya
In the next election for the Gujarat Assembly held in December, 2002, a campaign was mounted by Amit Shah and Modi to deny the party ticket to Haren Pandya from the Ellisbridge constituency from where Haren had been winning regularly. To force Advani and Vajpayee to agree, Modi even got himself admitted in the Hospital. On November 23rd, 2002, Modi had gotten himself admitted to the UN Mehta hospital in Ahmedabad complaining about breathlessness and fatigue and had undergone an angiography. Not surprisingly, no known medical cause was revealed for the sudden cardiovascular disorder and it was subsequently found that the symptoms developed after the leaders of the Sangh Parivar including Atal Behari Vajpayee had disapproved of Modi’s decision to take away the Ellisbridge constituency ticket from Shri Haren Pandya. The cardiovascular stunt was a successful tactic in keeping out Haren Pandya from contesting the December 2002 elections.. Haren was denied the ticket which was given to Bhavin Shah.
Modi won a land slide victory in 2002 after the state-sponsored riots and at the same time got rid of Haren who went into political hibernation. Amit Shah was made the MOS Home. It was later rumoured that Haren Pandya was being shifted to Delhi at the behest of Atal Behari Vajpayee during the end of March, 2003. However early morning on 26th March, 2003, Haren Pandya was killed allegedly by a hired Muslim assassin, Asghar Ali from Andhra Pradesh. Asghar and eleven more Muslims were arrested by CBI within a few weeks and prosecuted. All were convicted and sentenced to life by the Sessions Court.
The High Court of Gujarat howeveracquitted all of them holding that the judgement of the Session Court was not sustainable as there was no evidence at all to convict the twelve accused. The High Court set aside the judgment of sessions’ court and set all the convicts free. The CBI has filed appeals against the acquittals and the appeals are pending before the Supreme Court. At this juncture, Mr. Arun Jaitley has rushed to the Prime Minister expressing his apprehensions in the following words:
Notwithstanding the fact of the appeal being heard in the Supreme Court, fresh efforts are being made to politicize the case and suggestions to this effect are being made in the corridors of power by senior Congress leaders to implicate BJP leaders at this belated stage.
After raising the bogey that ‘efforts are being made to implicate BJP leaders’, Jaitley has made the following demand to the Prime Minister:
the charges of politicization and motivated investigation should all be subjected to a Commission of Inquiry headed by a sitting of the Supreme Court.
Jaitley’s demand of Commission of Inquiry appears to be as ridiculous as the bogey of politicization of the Haren Pandya case by Congress! The record reveals that after the death of Haren Pandya, his father Late Shri Vitthal Pandya had gone from pillar to post asking for a free and fair investigation. Despite being a BJP member, he showed complete lack of confidence in the CBI investigation which was at that time under NDA.
The records further reveal that after the trial started, Vitthal bhai had filed several application praying for re-investigation before the POTA Court in 2006, which were not entertained. He even appealed to the High Court in 2007; the CBI which was by then under UPA led by Congress vehemently opposed the prayer for re-investigation because of which his applications for condonation of delay were rejected by the order of High Court dated 16/6/2008. In the meantime the POTA Court by its Judgment and Order dated 25/6/2007 convicted all the twelve accused and sentenced them for life.
Subsequently, the widow of Haren Pandya filed an application dated 21/9/2010 to the Director CBI, seeking re-investigation under section 173(3) of the Cr.P.C. The High Court had subsequently heard the appeal of the accused and by its Judgment dated 29/8/2011 had set aside the Judgment of POTA Court dated 25/6/2007setting free all the accused. The widow Smt. Jagruti Pandya therefore filed yet another application 8/9/2011 to Director CBI seeking re-investigation of the murder case since the High Court had acquitted all the accused. In both applications to the Director CBI, Smt. Jagruti Pandya has shown complete lack of confidence in the investigation carried out by CBI and termed the murder of her husband as ‘political murder’.
The above facts will establish that the demand for reinvestigation of the Haren Pandya murder case has nothing to with Congress but have been made since 2006 by the father of Haren Pandya and subsequently by the widow. In fact, Jagruti Pandya had even approached the High Court vide the Sp. Cr. Appl. No.2327 of 2011 seeking re-investigation but it was not entertained as the Supreme Court is seized with the appeal of CBI. Jaitley knows these facts yet he mischievously points a finger at Congress and gives it a political twist such that in case any re-investigation is ordered on the request of the widow Jagruti Pandya, the BJP will abuse the CBI and Congress and scuttle the re-investigation!
Who therefore killed Haren Pandya? Was Asgar Ali the guy who pulled the trigger at the behest of Islamic Jehadis as alleged by the prosecution or was it a political murder as claimed by the father and the widow of Haren Pandya? Whatever be the truth, we have to wait for the Supreme Court to take the final decision in the appeals filed by CBI. But strange and surprising is the haste of Arun Jaitley. What are he and BJP worried of?