It is 8.30 a.m. on Saturday in the middle class area of Chandra Nagar. Jagruti Pandya, widow of former Gujarat Home Minister Haren Pandya, who was murdered in 2003, is doing a walkabout. She is the Gujarat Parivartan Party (GPP) candidate from the posh Ellisbridge constituency, which her late husband represented, and her decision to use this election to focus on the fact that all those charged with his brutal killing were let off last year, has created a ripple of interest. Her workers are a mix of friends and former BJP workers who have shifted allegiance to the former Chief Minister Keshubhai Patel.
In Maninagar — Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s constituency — his challenger, the Congress candidate Shweta Bhatt, the wife of IPS officer Sanjeev Bhatt, who has allegedly been victimised for making revelations about the role of Mr. Modi and his administration in the anti-Muslim pogrom in 2002, draws attention to injustice in the State: “If I win, it will be a victory for Gujarat; if I lose, Gujarat will lose,” she says with a theatrical turn of phrase.
As both women campaign — Ms. Bhatt in an SUV, Ms. Pandya on foot — door-to-door, people come out on to their balconies, some onto the streets. For these self-declared homemakers who have thus far had nothing to do with politics — even Ms. Pandya stresses she has never accompanied her late husband on the election trail — both answer questions with ease, their storylines smooth. Neither Ms. Pandya, nor Ms. Bhatt is likely to win, say locals. But in an election in which the communal carnage of 2002 is not an issue, with the Congress tiptoeing around it lest it awaken old ghosts, the fact that these women have left the sanctuary of their homes to enter politics is the only reminder of the terrible happenings of a decade ago, and of Mr. Modi’s role in them.
The two women could not differ more in their ideological persuasions — Ms. Pandya considers the BJP-RSS combine as her family, while Ms. Bhatt says she accepted the Congress ticket as the party’s ideology matched her own. Ms. Pandya stresses that “the BJP was Haren’s family, but he was let down. So I am contesting this election to seek justice in the court…
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