Before caretaker Chief Minister Narendra Modi could name some other candidate for Ahmedabad's Ellisbridge constituency, his archrival and sitting legislator Haren Pandya on Sunday night decided to withdraw from the race for a Bharatiya Janata Party ticket to contest the December 12 election.
A Rajkot-based leader of the BJP told rediff.com that in the war between Pandya and Modi, the former blinked, but won the hearts of the partymen. The caretaker chief minister, however, came out of the battle as a stubborn man who did not have a "large heart".
The psychological war between the two was going on for a while. On Sunday the party released its fifth list, taking the total number of candidates announced in the 182-constituency state to 181. Pandya's name was missing again
Pandya told rediff.com: "Since only Ellisbridge seat was remaining, I thought it fit to withdraw from the race. I have told my party leaders that I don't wish to contest. I took the decision to save my leaders from any kind of embarrassment."
But Modi's camp had something else to say.
"By the afternoon it was clear that either the VHP's state secretary, Dr Kaushik Mehta, or councillor Amit Shah would be given a ticket from Ellisbridge. Pandya got the hint so he called the press and declared himself unavailable. He was willing to fight till 5 pm. But by 8 pm he had a change of heart. How is it possible?" asked a staunch supporter of Modi.
When asked why Modi was so uncompromising when it came to Pandya, he cited three reasons.
First: In the by-election of February 2002, Pandya refused to vacate Ellisbridge for Modi.
Second: After the riots, Pandya allegedly fed the media with "anti-Modi" stories. Modi could not stand "Pandya's betrayal and use of media". He had told Arun Jaitley, the BJP general secretary, that "during the riots, when the secularists and media were hitting me from the front, Pandya turned the knife from the back sitting right in my Cabinet!"
Third: Another thing that was weighing on Modi's mind was that after the election, if the BJP formed the government, he would be forced to include Pandya in the Cabinet. He felt that Pandya leaked Cabinet discussions to the media.
If Modi kept him out of the Cabinet, even then Pandya's "nuisance value" would have remained till the term of the assembly ended. So Modi decided to "teach a lesson" to Pandya.
Modi's supporter claimed that "Ellisbridge is the BJP's seat and not Pandya's personal seat. This time we may get 5000 votes less due to the Pandya episode, but we will win the seat."
Amit Shah, BJP candidate from Sarkhej constituency of Ahmedabad, told rediff.com: "This is the internal matter of party. Tickets are allotted on merit and not as per the wishes of media. I believe the party's decisions should not be influenced by the media."
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