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Pandya widow to contest poll

Ahmedabad, Nov. 29: Slain Gujarat home minister Haren Pandya’s widow Jagruti today filed her nomination as a candidate of an outfit floated by a BJP rebel, saying she had waited too long to get “justice” from her husband’s party.

“I am contesting from Ellisbridge constituency which was represented by my husband three consecutive times. The people here still remember his smiling face and he lives in their hearts,” the 46-year-old said, hours before filing papers as a candidate for Keshubhai Patel’s three-month-old Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP).“I am sure I will get the same love and support because I am like his shadow and going to accomplish his unfinished tasks,” she added. “The vote for me would be the greatest tribute to Haren.”

Sources said Jagruti’s move was bound to embarrass the ruling BJP as her campaign theme — “justice for Haren” — would rake up the March 2003 murder that she has blamed on a “political plot”.

Pandya was found murdered in his car early on March 26, 2003, at Law Garden where he used to go for morning walks.

Investigators concluded he had been murdered to avenge the 2002 riots, but Pandya’s father Vitthal Pandya had blamed Modi.

Once, at a condolence meeting, the senior Pandya told party veteran L.K. Advani: “Modi got my son killed.” Pointing a finger at the chief minister, he had said: “He is the killer.”

In 2007, the senior Pandya had contested from the Ahmedabad constituency as an Independent but lost his deposit.

He died last year, a few months before Gujarat High Court acquitted all the accused after expressing serious doubts on the way the CBI had conducted the probe.

The BJP has not lost in Ellisbridge since 1993, when Haren Pandya, then a young municipal councillor, won the seat in a by-election. When Modi took over as chief minister replacing Keshubhai, he wanted Pandya to vacate the seat as it was considered safe. But Pandya refused, forcing Modi to contest from Rajkot. Sources said it was one of the reasons behind the differences between the two.

Jagruti has never openly blamed Modi for the murder. But in September last year, when the chief minister was in the middle of his much-hyped Sadbhavna (harmony) fast, she had decided to march to the place where Modi was fasting. Advani, however, intervened and persuaded her to call off the march.

Jagruti has also several times complained to the central leadership that the state government had deployed intelligence officials to keep watch on her.

Accusing the BJP of “betrayal”, Jagruti said she was taking the plunge into electoral politics because she had failed in her legal fight to get justice as his killers were still roaming free.

“I have waited for long and got no co-operation from the party, which we considered our family. I feel betrayed by the BJP for which my husband devoted his entire life,” she said.

Jagruti defended her decision to contest as a GPP nominee, saying she had been “inspired” by Keshubhai.