It is around noon and Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s wife, Sadhna, is walking down the kutcha road of Vidisha, an entourage of supporters following her. By her side is a BJP worker from the area, loudspeaker in hand.
He is going on and on about the CM’s welfare measures. As the first lady of the state goes from door to door, another partyworker, a young woman, fervently takes down notes.
Only two weeks ago, ‘bhabhiji’, as she is known in these parts, was campaigning not far away in Sehore’s Budhni district, from where her husband is contesting. But on November 7, a day before filing nominations closed, the BJP decided to field Chouhan from Vidisha as well.
Vidisha is an important constituency, and ever since finance minister Raghavji had to step down in July following sodomy charges, the BJP has been on the lookout for a suitable replacement.
Initially, Chouhan wanted trusted lieutenant and long-time associate Mukesh Tandon to be fielded from there but Raghavji bitterly opposed the decision and threatened to rebel.
According to party sources, alarmed by this in-fighting, a worried leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj, who represents the Vidisha Lok Sabha constituency, stepped in and that is how Chouhan entered the picture.
After the eleventh hour announcement, Sadhna shifted focus to Vidisha, leaving the job in Budhni to her son, 19-year-old law student Kartikeya.
“The area is not new to me. My husband has been an MP five times in a row,” she told HT. Indeed, nothing is new, except that Sadhna is making an appeal to the voters to make Chouhan an MLA this time.
Vidisha, a historical town, is 10km from the Buddhist site Sanchi. The erstwhile Jansangh had consolidated its base in the area when it started its political journey in the 1950s and since then it has been the saffron bastion.
The town lacks development, the roads are in a bad shape and unemployment is a major problem. “There is no factory in the area. Most of the roads are being constructed now. And for most people there is no other employment option other than working in the fields,” said Ratan Chand Purvar, a tea-seller.
But all this is not likely to hurt the BJP’s prospects. “In my family we are all traditional Congress supporters. But ultimately it is Chouhan who will win. He is chief minister,” added Purvar.
When asked which of the two seats Chouhan would retain if he won from both places, Sadhna dodges the question. BJP leaders, however, feel that should Chouhan shift to the Centre or come to represent Vidisha, Kartikeya would be his natural heir for Budhni.