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Pandya still on hold

New Delhi, Nov. 23: The impasse over the nomination of Haren Pandya for the Gujarat elections continued as the BJP released its fourth list of candidates today. The 11 names on this list do not mention Pandya nor has another candidate been nominated from the Ellis Bridge seat, his pocketborough.

With today’s list, the BJP has cleared the names of 177 candidates. Only four more remain for the 182-member Assembly.

BJP sources said the state election committee was expected to meet tomorrow in Ahmedabad and finalise the names of the remaining candidates. The panel of names would be sent to party chief M. Venkaiah Naidu, who is expected to announce them tomorrow, a day before the last date for filing nominations.

The election committee could not meet yesterday as caretaker chief minister Narendra Modi was hospitalised. He was shifted to Ahmedabad civil hospital from Gandhinagar this morning and advised to stay the night.

Pandya, who has represented the Ellis Bridge constituency from 1992, has pinned his hopes on the party’s national leadership. “The party is yet to finalise a candidate for the Ellis Bridge constituency. As November 25 is the last date for filing nomination papers, there is still time. I’m still confident that the party leadership will take the right decision at the right time,” he said.

Today’s list has only three sitting MLAs. The rest are debutants. From Godhra, the party has decided to field a former Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) activist, Haresh Bhatt, although his candidacy was opposed tooth and nail by the local unit. Bhatt was Modi’s choice.

As the tussle between Modi and the central leadership of A.B. Vajpayee and L.K. Advani continued over Pandya, BJP sources said the brass was keen on re-nominating him. “It has become a prestige issue for Vajpayee and Advani and if Pandya is dropped, it could be a loss of face for them,” maintained sources.

From unqualified support for Modi after the Godhra carnage, the mood in the BJP headquarters has turned to disapproval of what was perceived as his “high-handedness” and his “refusal to heed the orders of the bosses”.

Amid the battle of nerves between Delhi and Gandhinagar, the BJP received an embarrassing blow as national vice-president of the party’s minority morcha M.S. Khan announced his resignation in Ahmedabad.

, accusing Vajpayee and Advani of a lack of will to solve the Ayodhya problem.

“My resignation will help unmask these BJP leaders who do not want the Ayodhya issue to be solved,” he said.

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