Maninagar (Gujarat): In a red cotton sari, her husband and suspended cop Sanjiv Bhatt by her side, newcomer Shweta Bhatt filed nomination papers today as the Congress' candidate from Maninagar in Ahmedabad and instantly found the spotlight on her. She is contesting elections against Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
Maninagar is a Modi stronghold - he has held the seat since 2002. In 2007, he defeated the Congress candidate by around 75,000 votes. Mr Modi too has filed nomination today; he is seeking a third consecutive term and is expected to comfortably win back Gujarat for the BJP.
Shweta Bhatt, who has never contested elections before, said today, "We have moved far away from democracy in Gujarat and to restore it, everyone has to do whatever they can. Fighting against Modi is the logical step in our quest for democracy and to curb anti-democratic forces." Sanjiv Bhatt, an IPS officer, is best known for taking on Mr Modi, alleging that the CM had asked the state police to go slow against rioters during the 2002 post-Godhra communal riots in Gujarat.
In an affadavit in March last year, Mr Bhatt told the Supreme Court that he was present at a meeting in February 2002 after the Godhra train burning incident, where, he alleged, the CM said rioting mobs attacking largely Muslim neighbourhoods should be allowed to "vent their anger".
The chief minister and other police officers, who were part of the meeting, have said Mr Bhatt was not present at the session where he alleges that Mr Modi made these comments.
Mr Bhatt has also claimed that he was persecuted for taking on Mr Modi. He was suspended in August last year by the state's Home Ministry for not showing up at work, for misusing his official car, threatening a constable and for involvement in an Arms Act case.
The BJP today said the Shweta Bhatt's nomination "has exposed the Bhatt family".