Budhni still swears by Shivraj Singh Chouhan

Budhni still swears by Shivraj Singh Chouhan

The railway tracks that connect Chief Minister Shivraj Chouhan’s constituency of Budhni to two metro cities of Mumbai and Delhi have divided the residents of Budhni village into two territories, and residents are unhappy that despite pursuing it for two decades, the demand for an underpass has not been met.

Citing the Dussehara disaster at Amritsar, where moving trains mowed festival revellers watching the 'putla dahan' on Ravan, residents argue that a tragedy is waiting in the wings as hundreds of students and residents from Budhni village daily cross the railway lines to go to the other side to study in institutions located on the other side or work in factories there.

“The only other way is to travel via road and reach Mana through Hoshangabad. So a distance of 500 metres will take a journey of 10 kilometres. So people prefer crossing the railway line. Every morning streams of children cross the tracks on the busy rail traffic route risking their lives. Our constituency is represented by Chief Minister Shivraj Chouan and External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj but this small demand is not being met,” says Surjeet Rajput. 

There are also complaints that there is no proper X-ray machine in Primary Health Centre in Budhni and despite factories dotting the constituency, local youths do not get jobs. People have complaints and they are not shy of speaking out even in Budhni. Budhni falls under Vidisha Parliamentary seat represented by External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj.

But then why did nobody could stop Shivraj Singh’s victory train in Budhni. Pat comes the reply “We get 24-hour power, Roads are clean wide and spanky. And above all, we get happy that we are electing Chief Minister. Last year we had gone to the CM Houses. You see voters everywhere else in MP-elect and MLA. When we vote we know, we are voting a CM,” says Vikas Pandey a youth in Budhni village after narrating the problems the constituency faces.

“If BJP fields a candidate other than Chouhan, the party will definitely lose now,” avers Deepak another youth.

The refrain in this star constituency travels across the length and breadth of Madhya Pradesh. While there is no strong sentiment against Shivraj in person, a fatigue factor seems to have set in against the BJP which is ruling the state for the last 15 years.

There was also an attempt on social media to metamorphose the humble ‘mama (maternal uncle), beta, bhai’ into a ‘bahubali’ but it does not seem to have worked so well with the electorates, who are not ready to accept the “Bhallaldev” projection of Congress in this election.

Not that the Chief Minister is not aware of the changing winds. So for the first time even as he is not campaigning in Budhni, his wife Sadhna Singh and his son Kartikey are in a door to door campaign mode. This week both had to face the ire of villagers during the campaign.

Congress has fielded former Union Minister and two-term Lok Sabha MP Arun Yadav from the seat, who seems to be clear about his fate even as his supporters flag ‘rising anger” against Shivraj.

The going is not easy for Yadav. A video has gone viral in which a group of villagers in the constituency repeatedly ask why should they vote for Congress at all and shout slogans in favour of the Chief Minister, forcing Yadav to retreat.

Shivraj’s wife Sadhna and son Kartikey Chouhan are canvassing for the CM but they are also facing public ire at some places during the campaign trail, something which senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh cites to buttress the point that Shivraj Chouhan’s popularity is on the decline.

Chouhan had won the Budhni seat in 2013 with a margin of about 84,000 votes. But that was also a year, when a resurgent Modi wave had ensured BJP’s win in 165 of 230 seats. This is the fourth time he is contesting from Budhni having won it earlier in 1990 and again in 2006 months after he replaced Gaur as chief minister.

Chouhan’s signed letter is being distributed among electorates in which he asks them “all of you become Shivraj to fight this election and ensure my victory with record votes as I am engrossed in ensuring BJP’s victory in other 229 seats of MP. I have not served this constituency as MLA but as beta, bhai and mama.”

Ex MLA Rajendra Singh, who is looking after the CM’s constituency work dismisses as “all bunkum’ the talk of CM’s popularity going down and claims that strong BJP organisational network in Budhni and elsewhere will take care of issues if any.

“Bhabhi ji (Sadhna Singh) and Kartikeya are campaigning for the first time and we will increase the margin of victory to at least one lakh up from the 84,000 margin with which he had won the last time. What was there in Budhni before Shivraj came here,” he says.

Many take the claim with a pinch of salt stressing that though Chouhan may still win the seat, the victory margin will come down.

Read: The battle for Central India

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