Call for votes as justice to husband

Jagruti Pandeya

She makes the same appeal to voter after voter at Vasna in Ellisbridge, personally addressing whomever she can and waving at others, to whom she appeals through a portable microphone.

"I am Jagruti Pandya, Haren Pandya's wife. Vote for me. A vote to Jagrutiben will be a vote for Haren, justice to Haren, a tribute to Haren."

Jagruti Pandya, 46, is contesting from a constituency that her husband, a former minister of state for home who was murdered in March 2003, had won three times, earning it a reputation for being a safe seat for the BJP, which has won it since 1993. Jagruti, who is not with the BJP but contesting on a ticket from Keshubhai Patel's GPP, now promises voters she will bring change.

Vitthal Pandya, Haren's father now deceased, had contested the parliamentary election from Gandhinagar against the BJP's L K Advani.

Jagruti herself had never had anything to do with politics and had not accompanied her husband on his election campaigns. "He never discussed politics at home," she says. "Till he was alive, no question of my ever joining politics came up at home either. It was only after his death and a 10-year fight for justice after his murder that I decided to take this struggle to the people with whom he belonged."

She was born, grew up and married in the constituency, a connection she stresses as she meets voters. "This is our home, let's make it a family."

But it is her husband's name she is really banking on, equating votes to justice to him. Her supporters in her campaign also compare her with Rani Laxmibai. "Dekho dekho, Jhansi ki rani ayi; the decision will come on December 20," they chant.

She explains why she is a GPP candidate: "The GPP was floated as an alternative to the BJP; I took it as an opportunity to join politics. I had two options, either to fight as an Independent or to join a party. Since I have been fighting a battle alone for a decade, I am aware of the difficulties."

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