The moment you step into Budhni you realise you are in a VIP zone. Unlike adjoining Ichhawar constituency, here the roads are wide and smooth, and not just that, no other constituency in the whole of Sehore district boasts the level of development Budhni has.
In the past five years, two factories have come up, a move locals feel will rectify the unemployment figures to a certain extent, the power sub-station has already resolved the problem of low voltage and voltage fluctuation and drinking water and irrigation projects are underway.
A year after Shivraj Singh Chouhan replaced Babulal Gaur to become chief minister of Madhya Pradesh on November 30, 2005, he contested a by-election from Budhni and won by a margin of over 36,000 votes. In 2008, he retained his Budhni seat and won by over 41,000 votes.
Chouhan’s association with Budhni, however, dates back even further. Though the Bharatiya Jansangh had worked in the area for long and won the assembly polls in 1967 and later with the Janata Party in 1977, the Congress won the assembly elections in 1980. It was around this time that Chouhan began his career with the BJP’s student body, the ABVP.
“We would go to the villages and tell people about the BJP’s policies and ideology. My friends did not think I would be successful,” said Chouhan. That stint earned him the title ‘paon paon waale bhaiya’ or one who is with the masses at every step.
Chouhan’s continuing investment in Budhni has paid off. So much so, that in the 2008 assembly polls he did not even visit the constituency even once after filing his nomination papers. Instead, he let his wife, Sadhna Singh, lead the campaign and won the election with the highest victory margin that year.
“We have roads, power, water and factories. Shivraj bhaiya does not have to visit the constituency time and again,” said BJP mandal president Mahendra Sharma, talking to the Hindustan Times.
In Budhni’s Jait village, Chouhan’s native place, only BJP flags can be seen, there are no photographs of him. The CM’s house has a huge lock on it. Villager Vimlesh Chouhan says the CM last visited the village two days ago. “You cannot see any photograph of Shivraj bhaiya here on the posters, he asked us not to put them up. We don’t need anything from him after he wins the elections this time. We have got everything without asking him”.
Chouhan’s detractors have their list of complaints — there is no science college in the area, power bills are inflated and one can avail of loans to set up cottage industries but only after coughing up Rs. 25,000 for approval of the documents — but the truth is, opposition Congress is intimated by this mighty oak.
And that is why it is most likely to pitch the state Congress vice-president and younger brother of AICC general secretary Digvijaya Singh, Laxman Singh against him.
“Even if we can succeed in restricting Chouhan to his constituency during the elections or even reduce his victory margin to 10,000-150,000 this would be no less than a major victory for us,” said a senior Congress leader who did not want to be named.