Maninagar: In BJP stronghold, Congress fields IIM graduate woman candidate

Ahmedabad city’s Maninagar seat, which is the constituency of Narendra Modi when he was the Chief Minister of Gujarat, is facing some real heat after Congress decided to field foreign-educated young face Shweta Brahmbhatt against the sitting MLA Suresh Patel.

Brahmbhatt, 34, is perhaps the only candidate in this assembly poll who has received formal training to be a politician and that too from India’s premier institute IIM Bangalore.

Brambhatt’s selection came as a surprise to many as the fact that her father Narendra Bhahmbhatt is a senior Congress leader of the city. The aspiring politician is confident of winning the hearts of voters thought her “vision and determination”.

With a face like her, it won’t be an easy task for the Congress to take on the BJP as it houses the headquarters of the Rashtriya Swayamesevak Sangh.

Last 27-years Maninagar constituency hasn’t seen a tough fight and is considered as an unbreachable bastion of the BJP.

PM Modi, then as Gujarat Chief Minister, represented it in the assembly in 2002, 2007 and 2012. Prior to that, BJP leader Kamlesh Patel represented the seat from 1990 till 1998.

In 2012, Modi defeated his closest rival, Congress candidate Shweta Bhatt, the wife of former IPS officer Sanjiv Bhatt who was a stringent critic of the Gujarat government under Modi, by a margin of over 86,000 votes.

Following Modi’s resignation from Maninagar after becoming the prime minister office in 2014, the people elected BJP’s Suresh Patel by a thumping majority of over 49,000 votes in the byelection to the seat.
Now, Patel will face first-timer Brahmbhatt, who did her masters in international finance from the University of Westminster, London in 2005. She also worked as an investment banker with multinational firms in India.

In 2012, she went to IIM Bangalore to pursue the ‘India-Women in Leadership’ programme, designed to provide training to aspiring women politicians.
Brahmbhatt feels it is necessary “to be a part of system to change the system”.

“I have seen politics since early age. I consider politics as social work. My sole purpose to contest this election is to be the voice of youth and women,” she said.

“Despite being a highly educated woman, I faced many troubles in setting up my own business, mostly due to red-tapism. I want to make sure that others don’t face it,” she said.

Brahmbhatt claimed that she has been selected by the Congress to contest from the seat because of her “vision and zeal to do something for the next generation.”

“My focus is on education, employment and women empowerment. I am sure that people of this seat, especially the youth and women, will put their trust in me,” the aspiring leader said.

On the other side, BJP’s nominee Suresh Patel exuded confidence of his victory in the party stronghold.

“The people of Maninagar are attached to Modi’s ideology of development. During my campaigning, I haven’t seen a single Congress worker in Maninagar canvassing for their candidate. This is how Congress works. I firmly believe that she will lose her deposit,” the 57-year-old leader said.

As many as 93 Assembly seats of the north and central Gujarat would go to polls in the second phase on December 14. Votes would be counted on December 18.

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