|Sonia Gandhi (top) and Shweta Bhatt
Ahmedabad, Dec. 14: Never underestimate a woman, Shweta Bhatt likes to tell everybody, but the country’s most powerful woman already knew that.
When Sonia Gandhi came visiting the state Congress headquarters here today, all 16 party candidates from Ahmedabad were “introduced” to her but only one was granted an “interaction”.
It was Shweta, of course, a political greenhorn of immense importance to the Congress as she stares at a likely defeat against Narendra Modi on his turf Maninagar. To the party, the wife of IPS officer and riot whistleblower Sanjiv Bhatt is a “symbol” of the 2002 pogrom and the chief minister’s alleged role in it.
As soon as Shweta stepped out of the closed-door meeting with the Congress chief, her daughter Aakashi came up running. “Mom, I heard you spoke very well,” gushed the medical student.
It was perhaps something Aakashi had heard from a party source, for no one was revealing anything about what Shweta and Sonia had discussed.
Some sources hinted that the candidate spoke about the harassment her family had suffered since Sanjiv told the Supreme Court that Modi had instructed the police to let the anti-Muslim pogrom happen — and was jailed and suspended by the state government.
But whatever the world thinks, Shweta insists she is not a “proxy” for her husband, a merely “symbolic” candidate fielded to embarrass Modi.
“In those 17 days last year, when my husband was jailed and my house raided, I decided to fight against Modi,” she told The Telegraph. “If the Congress had not fielded me, I would have contested as an Independent.”
She added: “This fight has nothing to do with Sanjiv. He is capable of taking on ten Modis legally; he doesn’t need me (to fight his battles). This is my own fight.”
Shweta is a law graduate who specialised in criminology and a trained dancer but took up neither as a career. The 48-year-old prefers to introduce herself as a “homemaker”.
But she has been quick to pick up the language of elections. As she campaigned in the most neglected parts of her constituency yesterday, she said there was not one but two Maninagars.
“There is a Money Nagar within Maninagar. Modi is not bothered about Maninagar, he is only concerned about Money Nagar,” she said, citing the bad roads and accumulated filth in the working-class localities whose residents claim to have never seen Modi, their MLA, in their areas.
Shweta herself was born and brought up in Maninagar, so she is familiar with the area and its people. “I have come to defeat Modi,” she told a rally. “Never underestimate a woman.”
Speaking to this newspaper, she sympathised with fellow homemaker Jagruti Pandya who too is taking on the BJP and Modi from her murdered husband’s constituency of Ellisbridge as candidate for Keshubhai Patel’s Gujarat Parivartan Party.
Little hurdles are constantly being placed Shweta’s way. For four days after her nomination, she couldn’t open an election office because nobody in Maninagar was willing to let out a room to her.
She is now functioning out of a market complex.