Hitesh Pandya, a senior official in the Gujarat Chief Minister’s office, has resigned following a massive controversy over his son being part of a fake ‘official’ team of “Prime Minister’s Office” which tricked the Jammu and Kashmir administration and security apparatus to secure a Z-plus security cover, official accommodation at a five-star hotel, and a lot more.
Amit Hitesh Pandya, son of Mr Pandya, was part of a fake ‘official team’ led by conman Kiran Bhai Patel who made headlines after pictures of him enjoying the snow, surrounded by security forces, surfaced.
Mr Pandya, who was serving as the Gujarat Chief Minister’s Public Relations Officer (PRO) since 2001, tendered his resignation to Chief Minister Bhupendra Patel late yesterday evening.
In his resignation letter, Mr Pandya has reportedly said that he doesn’t want the image of the Prime Minister’s Office and the Gujarat Chief Minister’s Office to be tarnished, even as his son is “innocent”.
“My son is innocent. However, I don’t want the image of the CMO and the PMO tarnished, and hence I am resigning from the post,” Mr Pandya is reported to have said in the resignation letter.
Gujarat BJP has also reportedly suspended Amit Pandya from the primary membership of the party. He was in charge of the party’s social media department for the north zone in Gujarat.
Jammu and Kashmir police, however, has not named Amit Pandya as accused in the fake PMO team case. Amit and his fellow Gujarati accomplice, Jay Sitapara, have instead been made witnesses in the case.
The conman Kiran Bahi Patel was arrested earlier this month after enjoying official protocol for over four months while posing as a senior PMO official. However, Amit and Jay Sitapara were let off by police.
They were called back for questioning last week. A senior police official said the duo may have “fallen into the trap” of the conman.
The conman had visited multiple places, including forward posts along the Line of Control. The team had also held meetings with officials in various districts across Kashmir before the police were alerted that he was a conman.
Earlier, Mr Pandya told NDTV that his son was innocent, and he would never indulge in such an activity.
“I trust my son. He would never indulge in any such activity” said Mr Pandya.
Patel, impersonating an Additional Director for strategy and campaigns in the Prime Minister’s Office, was arrested on March 2.
But his arrest was kept a secret by the police for two weeks. The details of the ‘high profile’ arrest emerged only after a magistrate sent him to judicial custody on March 15.
Sources say Amit Hitesh Pandya, Jay Sitapara from Gujarat, and Trilok Singh from Rajasthan were also staying with Patel at a five-star hotel in Srinagar and impersonating an official team from the Prime Minister’s Office.
The “PMO team” has been visiting Kashmir since October last year. Sources say an IAS officer who is a district magistrate in south Kashmir had initially informed the security wing of the police about the visit of a “senior PMO officer”.
He was eventually given Z plus security by the security wing, and local police would also accompany the ‘VIP’ wherever he and his team visited during their multiple trips since October.
Patel is also verified on Twitter and has over a thousand followers, including BJP Gujarat General Secretary Pradipsinh Vaghela.
He shared several videos and pictures of his ‘official visits’ in Kashmir surrounded by paramilitary guards, the last of which was on March 2.