As evening descended on Panj, 8 km from Vidisha, people from about 300 houses assembled at the village square –a dusty piece of land -- to greet the Congress candidate, Laxman Singh, who is facing BJP heavyweight Sushma Swaraj this time.
Singh hopes to give Swaraj a tough fight. Although she has represented this village in Parliament for the past five years, Panj still has no proper electricity supply, only a trace of a road and a collapsing bridge that connects the village to the outer world.
This is the village that the BJP leader had adopted after it gifted her with the highest number votes in the last Lok Sabha elections. More than 94% of the villagers voted for the BJP. There was so much suspicion in political circles that a re-poll was conducted -- but with the same result.
In fact, the 2009 elections proved to be a virtual cakewalk for Swaraj after Congress candidate Rajkumar Patel’s nomination was cancelled at the last moment.
But five years on, the mood in this ‘adopted’ village, where she is fondly called Didi, is changing. “I will cast my vote for the Congress this time. What has she done for us?”said a backward caste woman resident.
Even after her victory, Swaraj promised a medical college, a railway factory and a halt for new trains. Unfulfilled promises, grass-root level isolation and discontent among her own party workers make it difficult for Swaraj this time.
“Sushmaji has been invisible for the last few years,” said villager Ramchandra Sahu. “Whenever she comes to Vidisha, she is surrounded by her own men. It’s impossible for us to meet her.”
But despite the disenchantment, there is a general wave in favour of BJP’s PM candidate Narendra Modi and CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan. Vidisha has been a BJP bastion since 1967. And so far, the Congress has been able to win from here only twice.