A metropolitan court on Tuesday accepted the Gujarat government’s request to withdraw the case against Vishwa Hindu Parishad leader Pravin Togadia and 38 others in an “attempt to murder” case in 1996 when VHP and Bajrang Dal activists had disrobed BJP’s senior minister Atmaram Patel.

The octogenarian leader was sought to be ‘punished’ by the VHP and Bajrang Dal as he had joined the previous year’s rebellion led by Bharatiya Janata Party’s maverick leader Shankersinh Vaghela who had flown 48 of his loyal MLAs to Khajuraho.

The court exonerated all the accused at the request of the state government which didn’t want to pursue the case that came to be known in local parlance as the ‘dhoti kand’ (dhoti episode).

Atmaram Patel’s ‘dhoti’ was pulled out by VHP and Bajrang Dal activists soon after newly sworn-in Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee finished his maiden public speech at the Sardar Patel Stadium here on 20 May 1996.

Togadia was issued non-bailable warrants (NBWs) by the same court earlier this month as he had failed to appear before it in the last 22 years of the proceedings.

The VHP leader and his supporters had then appeared in court in a dramatic manner following which the NBWs against him were cancelled.

Togadia had embarrassed the ruling BJP a fortnight ago also when he went missing for 10 hours and later told the media that he did so fearing that he would be finished in an “encounter”.

As soon as the court convened on Tuesday, the government lawyer put forward a plea that the state government is not inclined to fight the case.

The magistrate acceded to the request for withdrawal of case and acquitted all the 39 accused.