Chhindwara battle hinges on third player

BJP candidate and Union minister Prahlad Patel has lost no time in making the ?utter backwardness? of Chhindwara, Congress leader Kamal Nath's constituency ? his main plank.
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Updated on May 01, 2004 02:01 PM IST
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PTI | ByAbhilash Khandekar, Chhindwara

BJP candidate and Union minister Prahlad Patel has lost no time in making the ‘utter backwardness’ of Chhindwara, Congress leader Kamal Nath's constituency — his main plank. He has two stock questions for the electorate wherever he goes: "What have you got in the last 24 years with Kamal Nath as your MP? Where are the roads, canals, bridges and factories promised to you?"

Though Patel — who has deserted his earlier constituency Balaghat — is mounting a formidable challenge, Kamal Nath's future hinges on the performance of Manmohan Shah Bhatti, the Gondwana Gantantra Party (GGP) candidate.

"I know that the GGP is, in fact, the BJP," says Kamal Nath, complaining about the clandestine support the BJP is lending to the tribal outfit. The Congress leader claims even the people know that the BJP is funding the GGP to help cut into Congress votes.

There are 27 candidates in fray in Chhindwara, seven of them tribals. While both the BJP and Congress candidates are extremely resourceful, Bhatti is busy ensuring that all tribals vote — for him. There are over 3.35 lakh (about 35 per cent) Gond, Bharia and Korku tribals voters in the region. In the last assembly elections, the GGP got over 1.25 lakh votes in eight segments with only Bhatti winning.

Political observers here are sure that if Bhatti wins about two lakh votes this time, Kamal Nath would be in deep trouble.

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