| (Left) Modi and Advani attend a condolence meeting for Pandya in Ahmedabad. (AFP)
Ahmedabad, April 6: Lal Krishna Advani spoke up for “justice” belatedly, but was swept away in the torrent of raging grief of slain BJP leader Haren Pandya’s father, Vithalbhai.
“I blame you. You are also responsible for what happened to my son. You kept quiet and allowed the party to be monopolised by one Ravana,” the 76-year-old told Advani as the deputy Prime Minister went up to the elder Pandya to console him after a condolence meeting.
Haren Pandya was shot dead by assailants on his morning walk on March 26.
In his speech, Advani made the first public attempt by the BJP leadership to apologise for denying Pandya a ticket in the last Assembly poll. “Today, as a senior leader of the party, I admit with a heavy heart that we did injustice to Pandya.”
But at the time the leadership had succumbed to chief minister Narendra Modi’s pressure to not nominate Pandya. For this reticence, Advani faced the wrath of a man who had lost his son.
The “Ravana” Vithalbhai mentioned sat stone-faced — first when Advani delivered his confession, meant as much to be a rebuke to Modi as public admission of a mistake, and then through Vithalbhai’s address.
The meeting began badly for Modi with Vithalbhai refusing to share the dais with him and Advani, and Keshubhai Patel, the chief minister’s rival, indirectly accusing him of displaying a “vindictive attitude” even after Pandya’s death. “Hurdles were created for those who wanted to hold condolence meetings,” he said.
Speaking next, Vithalbhai said: “My son… was a dedicated party worker but he was not a politician and he never hankered after any position or ill-gotten money. I’m proud of my son... Please, do not defame my son.”
The bereaved family is upset over disturbing rumours, emanating from the Sangh parivar, that Pandya’s murder was a fallout of his alleged extra-marital relations.
Holding his composure, Modi tried to convey the impression that he was close to Pandya. “I would fill his nomination forms when he contested civic and Assembly elections,” he said.
A true homage to Pandya would be to catch the culprits who murdered him, Modi added.
It was small solace for the father. “My son was killed for political reasons. It is a political murder. You can take it from me,” Vithalbhai told Advani.
Advani did not utter a word. Patel came to his rescue, pacifying the angry father and telling him that he should not embarrass the deputy Prime Minister who had admitted the mistake.
“Having realised our mistake, the party was in the process of rehabilitating him before this unfortunate incident took place,” Advani had said, referring to the initiative to give Pandya a central leadership position.
“It is not a coincidence that my son was killed just a day after he was nominated to the party’s national executive,” Vithalbhai said, stressing that it was “political murder”.