Upbeat BJP looks to beat Kamal Nath

Upbeat BJP looks to beat Kamal Nath

 An upbeat BJP is pulling out all stops to defeat the Congress' old warhorse Kamal Nath in his stronghold in this tribal-dominated region of Madhya Pradesh.

Winning four of the seven Assembly constituencies, which form the Chhindwara Parliamentary seat, in the elections in December will act as a shot in the arm for the saffron party.

Not one to be left behind, Kamal Nath storming across this vast constituency—a Congress bastion since the first Lok Sabha elections in 1952, barring a lone BJP win in 1997—nestled in the Satpura ranges. Eight-term MP Kamal Nath was first elected from this seat in 1980.

It would have been nine straight wins had his name not figured in the infamous Jain Hawala case that forced him to sit out of the 1996 Lok Sabha elections. His wife Alka Nath contested and won that time. She resigned from the Lok Sabha next year, when his name was cleared in the alleged scam, forcing a bypoll in 1997.
He tasted his only defeat at the hands of BJP veteran and former chief minister Sunderlal Patwa in 1997.

Apparently sensing the anti-incumbency mood against the UPA, Congress banners and posters across this bustling town feature only Kamal Nath, and not Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. An odd campaign vehicle moving around the constituency playing pre-recorded messages in Nath's voice carry the pictures of Congress president Sonia Gandhi and  Rahul Gandhi.

The BJP has fielded Chhindwara MLA Choudhary Chandrabhan Singh against Nath. Singh won the Assembly seat in last December by a margin of nearly 25,000 votes, defeating Nath's protege Deepak Saxena.

“There is a Narendra Modi wave across the state, and Kamal Nath will be swept away,” said Chhindwara Municipal Council vice-president Dharmendra Miglani. He is managing Singh's campaign and marshalling resources, as the candidate is busy canvassing for votes in remote areas of the constituency.

Nath too was busy addressing meetings, like the one in Balaghat, about 200 km from here. “Nath is assisted by his wife Alka and son Nakul,” said a campaign manager for the Congress leader at his office here. Madhya Pradesh usually witnesses a straight contest between the Congress and the BJP. However, the Aam Aadmi Party has fielded Mahesh Madhavlal Dubey, who claims that there is a lot of curiosity in the region about Kejriwal.

The Chhindwara parliamentary seat has about 14 lakh voters. Both the Congress and the BJP are eyeing a chunk of the 4.69 lakh voters in the age group of 18-29 years. As many as 44,000 are first-time voters.

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