The Congress has done a disservice to its party leaders and workers by fielding a non-entity like Shweta Bhatt to take on Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi in the Gujarat assemby election, feels Sheela Bhatt.
The Congress party has played an ugly joke on the people of Gujarat by fielding Shweta Bhatt in the state assembly election against Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi in Ahmedabad's Maninagar constituency.
Shweta Bhatt is the wife of controversial police officer Sanjiv Bhatt, who in an affidavit in the Supreme Court last year, alleged complicity on Modi's part in the 2002 riots. He also deposed against Modi before the Nanavati Commission probing the riots.
Shweta Bhatt's candidature is a huge psychological defeat for the Congress even before the first vote is cast.
Narendra Modi will have the last laugh at the expense of those who have genuine issues with his politics.
By directly associating with Sanjiv Bhatt and his campaign against Modi, the Congress has diluted the charges levelled against Modi in recent years.
The Congress reckons that Shweta's husband will capture a few headlines and engage Modi on issues related to the 2002 riots.
If the idea was to snub Modi by not putting up a fight, the Congress has scored a self-goal.
"This shows the Congress failed to find a single leader who can contest the election against Modi. The Congress is taking Gujaratis for granted," a senior editor of a Gujarati daily newspaper told Rediff.com
A dignified Dinsha Patel had put up a symbolic fight for the Congress against Modi in the 2007 assembly election, but by nominating a non-entity like Shweta Bhatt, the Congress has done a disservice to its party leaders and workers who want its central leadership to show some spine in taking on Modi.
"The real risk is that the fight in Maninagar will look like a mock fight between Modi and the Congress," says a columnist for the Divya Bhaskar newspaper.
Congress leaders defended the decision to field Sanjiv Bhatt's wife. "Under the circumstances, Shweta Bhatt is the best Congress candidate," says senior Congress leader Hasmukh Patel, refusing to elaborate why he feels that is so.
Modi won the Maninagar seat by over 86,000 votes in the 2007 assembly election.
"One only hopes Shweta Bhatt will retain her (electoral) deposit," says Harshad Patel, a Bharatiya Janata Party booth manager in Ahmedabad's Naranpura area. "Even the Congress wants Modi to shift to New Delhi soon," Patel adds, tongue-in-cheek.