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Former Gujarat home minister
Haren Pandya shot dead

Vikram Vakil | March 26, 2003 22:15 IST


Former Gujarat home minister Haren Pandya was shot dead on Wednesday morning, about two km from his residence in Ahmedabad.

Pandya (43) was hit by five bullets fired from close range at his chest, neck and lower abdomen.

The assailant, riding a motorcycle, opened fire at Pandya as he sat in his car for the drive back home after finishing his morning walk at the Law Garden locality. The incident occurred around 1030 IST.

Pandya lay in a pool of blood for about 30 minutes as no one came forward to help him, police sources claimed.

He was rushed to the V S hospital where doctors discovered he had received multiple bullet injuries.

After he was declared dead, Pandya's body was sent for post mortem, the Resident Medical Officer said.

He is survived by his wife and two sons.

Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and senior BJP leaders, including former chief minister Keshubhai Patel, Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ashok Bhatt, MLA Maya Kodnani and Minister of State for Home Amit Shah, were among those who rushed to the hospital as news of the incident spread. The government later ordered a Central Bureau of Investigation inquiry into the incident.

Pandya's distraught supporters raised anti-Modi slogans at the hospital and accused him of not providing adequate security to the departed leader.

Mediapersons also faced their wrath and some photojournalists were roughed up.

Shopkeepers in the area downed their shutters in protest against Pandya's killing and demanded the arrest of the assailant.

Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee expressed shock over the killing. He spoke to Modi immediately after getting the news. Deputy Prime Minister Lal Kishenchand Advani and BJP president M Venkaiah Naidu are expected to reach Ahmedabad in the evening, official sources said.

Hearing the news of Pandya's death, his parents and other family members rushed to the hospital. His aged father fainted on hearing the news and had to be hospitalised.

Pandya's parents also voiced their anger against Modi and his 'poor handling' of the law and order situation in the state.

Police Commissioner K R Kaushik said that a red alert had been sounded throughout Gujarat and all measures were being taken to maintain peace. He said a manhunt had been launched for the assailants.

He said a .32 caliber revolver had been used to commit the murder.

Born on August 27, 1961, Pandya was first elected to the Gujarat assembly in 1993. He was minister of state for border security (independent charge) prior to his elevation as home minister in 1998.

An engineering graduate, Pandya was a well-known student leader and is a former corporator of Ahmedabad.

Considered one of the party's bright prospects in Gujarat, Pandya represented the Ellis Bridge assembly constituency for three consecutive terms and was a minister in the Keshubhai Patel cabinet.

He was dropped after Narendra Modi became chief minister following bitter factionalism in the BJP's Gujarat unit. The outspoken politician was denied a BJP ticket for last December's assembly election.

Among other things, Pandya had attracted Modi's ire after appearing before a tribunal probing the post-Godhra communal riots in Gujarat last year.

Pandya defended himself when asked by the state leadership to explain his actions.

The Keshubhai Patel loyalist had a running feud with Modi and had become the symbol of the cold war between Patel and Modi.

Even after quitting the Modi cabinet, Pandya had taken on the chief minister on a number of occasions.

Police said there appeared to be some similarity with the attempt on the life of state VHP leader Jaideep Patel after the Gujarat assembly elections.

Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Lal Kishenchand Advani briefed the Cabinet Committee on Security about the assassination, External Affairs Minister Yashwant Sinha said, after an hour-long meeting of the CCS, chaired by Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

With inputs from the Press Trust of India

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