Ahmedabad: Astronaut Sunita Williams’ relatives in Gujarat are preparing for her first visit to India after her record breaking stay in space. But what should be a family affair has now turned political.
The Opposition Congress alleges that the government is not doing much to welcome Sunita because she is a cousin of the late Haren Pandya – a supporter-turned-critic of Gujarat Chief Minister Narenda Modi.
"The state government and Mr Modi have ignored Sunita Wiliams' visit to Gujarat. All this is being done just because she is the cousin of the late Haren Pandya,” says Spokesperson, Gujarat Congress, Shaktisinh Gohil.
The Bhartiya Janat Party (BJP) does not want to been seen as anti-Pandya, but it has not gone out full throttle to welcome Sunita Williams either.
"This visit is not a political one and we do not want to make it one. Sunita Williams is from Gujarat and we are proud of her. Lets not politicise this,” says state BJP President, Purshottam Rupala.
But her uncle Vitthalbhai Pandya says he does not care if the government welcomes her or not, and the family is making sure she gets the welcome she deserves.
"The government should have taken pride in her visit here, but we don’t care. A few fundamentalists would be reluctant to respect her, but it does not matter,” says Vitthalbhai.
So there’s more to Sunita Williams' visit to Ahmedabad than it being just a family affair. It’s an event that could embarrass the BJP in an election year, as the Pandya family has openly held Narendra Modi responsible for Haren Pandya's killing.