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CHHINDWARA

Chhindwara is set to witness a fierce fight this time as Congress heavyweight Kamal Nath squares off against the Bharatiya Janata Party's Prahlad Patel.
PTI | By Rohit Ghosh (Indo-Asian News Service)
PUBLISHED ON APR 14, 2004 01:39 PM IST

Chhindwara is set to witness a fierce fight this time as Congress heavyweight Kamal Nath squares off against the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)'s Prahlad Patel in the coming general election.

Though polls for this seat are still a month away, the constituency in southwest Madhya Pradesh has already witnessed incidents of poll-related violence.

Kamal Nath, a general secretary of the Congress party, represented Chhindwara In the last Lok Sabha and is again the party's candidate for the coming polls.

The BJP has posed a stiff challenge to Kamal Nath by fielding Patel, the central minister of state for coal and mines, from Chhindwara. Much younger than the Congress leader, Patel has been a member of the Lok Sabha for over 15 year and is known for his killer instinct.

"Prahlad Patel will win the seat, even if by a narrow margin. He will no leave no stone unturned to defeat Kamal Nath," said Arvind Singh Bhadauria, an election strategist of the BJP.

Patel hit upon a new idea to woo voters after he was declared the BJP candidate for Chhindwara. He, along with his supporters, set out on motorcycles from village to village to seek votes.

Not to be left behind, the suave Kamal Nath too started campaigning in his personal Bell helicopter.

Congressmen allegedly attacked Patel's convoy April 2 in Rohana village and at least 12 people were injured in the ensuing violence between workers of the BJP and Congress.

Kamal Nath's chopper was attacked in Devagarh village in the same constituency April 6.

"More violence is apprehended as the election date nears. We have increased our vigilance in the constituency," said a senior police official.

From 1952, when the first general election was held in the constituency, to 1997, Chhindwara was a stronghold for the Congress. The Congress lost the seat to the BJP in the by-elections in 1997.

But the Congress was able to reclaim the seat in the 1998 general election.

Today Kamal Nath and Chhindwara are almost synonymous. He contested from the seat for the first time in 1980 and continued representing it in parliament till 1996. He did not contest the 1996 general election for his alleged involvement in a financial scandal.

Instead, his wife Alka Nath contested from the constituency and emerged victorious.

She resigned from the seat in 1997 to enable Kamal Nath to contest from the seat. The BJP fielded former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Sundar Lal Patwa, who won from Chhindwara.

Kamal Nath and Patwa were again pitted against each other in the 1998 general election. The former defeated Patwa by a margin of over 150,000 votes. Kamal Nath again won from the seat in 1999.

The BJP had fielded Santosh Jain, a labour leader with close links to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in the last Lok Sabha election, but Kamal Nath had no problems in defeating Jain.

--Indo-Asian News Service

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