There are seven Congress candidates contesting the seven constituencies of Chhindwara district on the Madhya Pradesh-Maharashtra border, which goes to the polls on Thursday. But only one Congressman’s clout is being tested — that of Union minister Kamal Nath who holds the Lok Sabha seat here.
Nath’s life-size cutouts are everywhere. All seven candidates are his loyalists.
“It is a contest between kamal (lotus), the BJP’s symbol and Kamal (Nath) here,” said Rahul Rode, a local RSS worker.
But it will be no cakewalk for the minister. The Congress currently does not hold a single seat here. Six went to the BJP in the last 2003 Assembly election, while the seventh was won by the regional Gondwana Ganatantra Party (GGP). There is general consensus that the BJP government has improved infrastructure after it was neglected by the earlier Congress regime of Digvijay Singh.
“The roads are better, load shedding is less than before,” said Raghunandan Pawar, deputy sarpanch of Khirsadoh village, 25 km from the district headquarters.
The GGP, championing the dominant Gond tribals, played spoiler in the last election, drawing away Gond votes from the Congress. But R K Mighlani, Nath’s trusted aide, said: “The GGP had a tacit understanding with the BJP last time, but now it does not.”