The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Congress in bandh, probe cry

Ahmedabad/ New Delhi, March 26: The murder of BJP leader Haren Pandya has rocked the political establishment in Gandhinagar and sent shockwaves across the city, where he was immensely popular with the middle-class.

Gujarat Congress president Shankarsinh Vaghela has called a bandh in the city tomorrow.

The Assembly, where seven Bills were passed today, witnessed noisy scenes with the state Congress demanding a CBI probe into the “political murder”.

An inquiry by the Narendra Modi government would lack credibility and, hence a sitting high court judge or the CBI should conduct an investigation to make the findings credible, Congress spokesman Jaipal Reddy said in New Delhi this evening. Reddy’s demand came just before the Modi government announced a CBI probe.

Reddy demanded that the probe look into the reasons why the state government had withdrawn Pandya’s security despite him being a former home minister. “Today when he was killed, Pandya was all alone,” Reddy said and wondered how that was allowed to happen.

The Congress spokesman was drawing attention to the fact that Modi had been at loggerheads with his slain party colleague ever since the Godhra carnage last February.

Asked whether he suspected a conspiracy, Reddy said: “There is always some conspiracy behind such killings.”

In Ahmedabad, Opposition leader Amarsinh Chaudhary blamed the Modi government for withdrawing Pandya’s security, which, he said, made him an easy target.

Pandya’s political mentor former chief minister Keshubhai Patel agreed with the Congress assertion that the former minister’s security should not have been withdrawn.

Recalling his 18-year-old association with Pandya, the former chief minister said: “He did an excellent job as home minister in my government. He was a very intelligent leader whose future was bright. People had a lot of expectations from him.”

“Pandya”, Patel added, “had no enemies. He was such an affable person that he could have never antagonised anyone.”

But the man, seen as a tough home minister who dismantled the “transfer raj”, refused bribes and as revenue minister, reclaimed encroached land worth several hundred crores of rupees, might have rubbed some people the wrong way, a BJP insider said.

However, Pandya’s close friends insist that he was never issued any threats.

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