Shweta Bhatt Vs. Narendra Modi in Maninagar - A symbolic gesture or a real election fight?




By Mohd. Ismail Khan, TwoCircles.net,

In every election there are some constituencies and election fights which will catch national attention. On 17th as Gujarat votes in second phase of polling, the attention of the nation will rbe on Maninagar constituency where Shweta Bhatt a housewife turned politician and wife of ex-IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt is standing against a two time incumbent chief minister who is likely to make a hat-trick.

Although they are 13 contenders for Maninagar seat there seems to be a direct competition between Shweta Bhatt and Narendra Modi. But Mr. Modi who has won Maninagar earlier two times by defeating union ministers with margin of 75,333 votes in 2002 and 87,161 votes in 2007 is confident that this time it will be cake walk against his main contender who is a political novice.



Shweta Bhatt (center)

Mr. Modi is so confident of his win in Maninagar that since filing his nomination papers he didn’t even paid a visit to his constituency, his considerable campaign work is done by his PR machinery of much controversial and expensive 3D and LED projector speeches.

Whereas Mrs. Shweta Bhatt is campaigning vigorously getting involved in door to door campaign and addressing public meetings in the residential localities. Mrs. Bhatt is a congress candidate supported by Keshubhai Patel’s Parivartan party, but she also knows that all the weight thrown on her back will not be enough to give a real fight to perhaps the most powerful man in Gujarat.

So Mrs. Bhatt is exploiting ways to turn the result into unthinkable, Maninagar like rest of Gujarat or Ahmedabad is a mix of organized localities, with corporate offices on the one hand and slums without even basic amenities on the other, surely manifesting who got benefited by the much debated ‘vikas’ of Gujarat.

Mrs. Bhatt is cleverly campaigning in those slums promising residents of providing them basic amenities like water supply, and Drainage facility if elected their representative. Earlier addressing a public meeting before inaugurating congress party division office, Mrs. Bhatt told the crowd consisting mainly women from underdeveloped localities that she had to join politics because of the pain inflicted on her. If she gets elected she will work to remove the pain and agony of every resident of Maninagar.

They are wide perception in the general public that Maninagar is a competition of unequal’s and it will be a cake walk for Mr. Modi to retain his seat, but Maninagar ones a BJP’s den is not the same any more, believes Shabnam Hashmi.

Shabnam Hashmi along with activists from her organization ANHAD is campaigning in whole Gujarat since June against BJP Govt. Their online campaign through social media, especially by their YouTube channel ‘Bole Gujarat’ has made a considerable dent against Narendra Modi and BJP’s online reelection camping.

In the last 20 days before the polling Ms. Hashmi along with her fellow activists has given personal attention to Maninagar, and shifted their workplace at the top of congress Maninagar head office to campaign for Shweta Bhatt.

“The fact that ANHAD has opened an office in the heart of Maninagar can represent lot of ground realities,” said Ms. Hashmi. According to her people in Maninagar are fed up with Narendra modi especially the slum dwellers and lower middle class sections in Maninagar who has not tasted the much advertised ‘Vikas’ of Mr. Modi.

When asked if real competition in Maninagar even exists, Ms. Hashmi was quick to describe Mrs. Bhatt as most formidable candidate against Narendra Modi. Narendra Modi at this juncture might be the most powerful man in Gujarat, but according to Ms. Hashmi, Shweta Bhatt is the most powerful women in Gujarat to challenge Mr. Modi.

Ms. Hashmi said Maninagar hold key to change the scenario of Gujarat election, “If people in Gujarat feel that Modi is tumbling in his own constituency then it will send a decisive signal in the rest of poll bound constituencies.”

Team of ANHAD has planned posters to be distributed in Maninagr to expose what they called bubble of development and authoritarian regime of Narendra Modi. Even activists of ANHAD had targeted the BJP election slogan in Gujarat to give it a Maninagar touch. Like ‘Ek Mat Gujarat, Bane Bhajapa ki Sarkar’ election slogan of BJP according to ANHAD activists promote one voice democracy, so it is countered by slogan ‘Ek Mat Nahi, Bahu mat, Haave Maninagar pe sahmat’ which promotes plural voices in a democracy.



Shweta Bhatt garlanded by her supporter

Ms. Hashmi also claimed that Shweta Bhatt contesting against Narendra Modi is not just a symbolic gesture but a real fight and could yield an unprecedented result. She said, “Shweta Bhatt is giving a tough fight to Narendra Modi by cutting into his vote base. Whether we like it or not caste plays a major role in electoral politics in India. There are 50,000 Brahmin votes in Maninagar the same caste Shweta belongs to, they have been traditionally with BJP, if she is able to break into that base, in addition to acquiring 30,000 Dalit, 17,000 Muslims, and 14,000 christen and considerable Patel votes then she can definitely give a though competition to Modi.”

The fate of both Narendra Modi and Shweta Bhatt will be revealed on 20th, but there fight is the most discussed topic in the streets of Ahmedabad, a house wife giving a competition to the macho and patriarch personality of Narendra Modi is the most interesting part of Gujarat election.

Political observers in Gujarat believes that it doesn’t matter Shweta Bhatt emerges as a giant killer or even struggles to save her deposit, the thing to watch for in Maninagar election will be how much Shweta Bhatt can cut the vote base of Narendra Modi. If she succeeds in cutting his last time winning margin from 80,000 to less than that, then she has done a considerable damage to the image of Narendra Modi.

TCN series on Gujarat elections