Shweta Bhatt, in her mid-40s, was happy tending to her modest home, raising two children, keeping track of her husband, IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt, and occasionally indulging in classical dance, till Bhatt decided two years ago that he would take Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi head on for the latter’s role in the 2002 riots. That day, Shweta said in earlier interactions, her life would no longer be blissfully domestic.
On Friday, as she became the Congress candidate in Maninagar against Modi for the assembly election two weeks away, Shweta found her life dramatically changed. “Watch out for this battle,” she told HT.
Irrespective of the election outcome, Shweta has emerged as a woman – yet another after Mallika Sarabhai, Zakia Jafri and Teesta Setalvad – to take on Modi on his home turf.
No sooner did she file her nomination, the online and offline trolls were gunning for her. She was defined as “her husband’s proxy”, an affirmation that Bhatt had enjoyed Congress support when he had taken on Modi, and a poor apology for the Congress that couldn’t find a suitable career politician to contest against Modi.
Indeed, Shweta’s contest against Modi is a symbolic one. Given the odds against her, and Modi’s long association with the constituency, it will take a miracle for her to win against him.
That’s the point: Shweta is there for the fight, not necessarily the win. Her candidature, and therefore her constant presence in the constituency and media, is a reminder of the horrific chapter in Gujarat that Modi wants the nation to forget.
“I would have fought against Modi even as an Independent,” Shweta said, denying that she was being a proxy for her husband. “Sanjiv took him on constitutionally and legally. I am taking him on politically. It’s a different fight.”
The Bhatts expected to be targets of vicious attacks once Shweta declared her candidature. The BJP dismissed her. Local Congress units, a senior leader remarked, seem to have been resuscitated.