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Suicide bid by jilted candidate
- Frustrated at being refused ticket, Nazneen tries to take life

Ahmedabad, Nov. 26: Haren Pandya did not get a nomination but, fortunately for Atal Bihari Vajpayee, he did not attempt to kill himself in frustration.

Unfortunately for Sonia Gandhi, Nazneen Bastawala did.

The 36-year-old councillor of the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation took a drug overdose in an attempt to commit suicide when she learnt that even after being announced as the official candidate, she had been denied a ticket for the December 12 Assembly polls.

Around 10.30 this morning, a day after the close of nominations, Nazneen, the mother of a 10-year-old girl and a 12-year-old boy, took eight Alplazoram tablets, which doctors described as an anti-anxiety drug.

She was rushed to VS Hospital where doctors washed her stomach. Dr Rajesh Sanghani, who treated her, said: “The patient is okay but we have to keep her under observation for at least 24 hours.”

Hours before she was to file her nomination papers from Kalupur, among the badly-affected areas of Ahmedabad in the riots, Nazneen learnt that the party had given the ticket to someone else, Farooq Shaikh.

The area has a substantial minority presence.

She was not even officially told that she was no longer the candidate.

“Just because I’m a woman, I was denied a chance to contest the elections,” she said.

The statement is not going to sit easy on Sonia Gandhi. The Congress president’s political secretary Ahmad Patel called Nazneen from Delhi but she was still angry.

“I have just spoken to her. She is fine. It is an internal matter of the party and would be sorted out amicably,” said Kamal Nath, Congress general secretary in charge of Gujarat.

“By denying me the ticket after announcing my name as the official candidate, the Congress party has expressed lack of trust in women’s ability,” she said.

In principle, the Congress is committed to giving 33 per cent of the seats to women nominees but in Gujarat, their share is less than 10 per cent.

State Congress vice-president Hasmukh Patel sought to play down Nazneen’s attempt to commit suicide. “There was no need to have taken such an extreme step as she was not the only person who was denied a ticket. But she was so frustrated that she tried to kill herself.”

Her name was on the second list announced by the Congress as the candidate from Kalupur, which has in the past been represented by Shaikh. The sitting legislators supporters had earlier attacked the Gujarat Pradesh Congress office and used abusive language against Nazneen.

Shaikh’s might possibly proved too much for Nazneen’s “dynamism”, a quality that a party leader complimented her for. Himangshu Vyas, a Congress spokesman, said: “She is a very outstanding lady.”

That might have been the reason why the party put her up as the first-time candidate from Dariapur for the civic polls in 2000, which she won despite being a resident of Ahmedabad by marriage and not by birth.

Nazneen, a graduate, was born and raised in Mumbai and married into an established business family here.

She said Muslim women of the area were elated at her getting the nomination. “The people of my area will vouch for it,” Nazneen said, claiming that she had an excellent record as a councillor.

Asked why she was replaced, she said: “That is a question I asked party leaders who told me ‘because you are a woman’.”

Hasmukh Patel, however, denied that Nazneen was replaced because she is a woman. “Reservation is no the only criterion for selecting a candidate. Winnability is important because we have to defeat the BJP by hook or by crook.”

There is no answer yet to the question why she was made to wait till the last moment and not even informed of the change of plans. Nazneen said she got to learn that she had been dropped only after she sent a messenger to the party office on Sunday, the eve of the last date for filing nominations.

“This appears to me a part of a game in which I was used as a pawn,” she said.

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