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Will Budhni Back ‘Mama’ Chouhan After BJP’s Reluctance to Project Him as CM Face?

প্রতিবেদক
bdnewstimes
নভেম্বর ৩, ২০২৩ ১:১৫ অপরাহ্ণ


Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has been invincible in his pocket borough Budhni assembly constituency, winning on all five occasions he has contested from here since 1990 and amassing 60 per cent or more votes since 2006.

The election this time appears a bit different for Budhni, which has been voting for the BJP’s CM face for a long time, as the ruling party has fielded seven Lok Sabha members, including Union ministers Narendra Singh Tomar, Faggan Singh Kulaste and Prahlad Patel, and general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya.

The move has sent out signals that the BJP has kept options open for the state’s top post and Chouhan, the longest-serving CM of Madhya Pradesh, might not be the default choice.

When Chouhan, then a Lok Sabha member from Vidisha, became the CM in 2005, he won from Budhni, about 65 km from the state capital and part of the Bhopal division, in the bypoll after the then BJP legislator Rajendra Singh vacated this seat for him.

Previously, Chouhan had won the assembly election from Budhni in 1990. However, BJP fielded him from the Vidisha Lok Sabha seat in 1991 after former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee resigned from there to retain the Lucknow seat in Parliament’s Lower House.

In 2013, Chouhan, a prominent OBC face of the BJP, defeated Congress’ Mahendra Singh Chouhan by a margin of over 84,000 votes, which dipped to around 59,000 in 2018 when Congress fielded former Union minister Arun Yadav, also an OBC.

Congress has this time fielded Vikram Mastal, a TV actor who had played the role of Hanuman in a serial, from Budhni to take on Chouhan, whose avuncular style had earned him the moniker ‘mama’ (maternal uncle).

Political observers believe the Congress has pared down the contest for Chouhan by fielding a lightweight candidate who is new to politics and the electorate of the constituency. This was evident when Chouhan, before filing his nomination earlier this week, told voters of Budhni “to contest polls for him” as he would campaign in the entire state.

The Samajwadi Party (SP) also registered its presence in Budhni by nominating Vairagyanand Giri, aka ‘Mirchi Baba’, who had performed a ‘havan’ (ritual) using chillies for the “victory” of Congress’ Digvijaya Singh from Bhopal Lok Sabha seat in 2019, which was won by BJP’s Pragya Singh Thakur.

Amid talks of a “fatigue factor” tied to Chouhan, the BJP has shied away from making him its CM face this time, the latest signal coming from its decision to field a battery of seven MPs and a party general secretary for the November 17 polls.

During a media interaction in August this year, Union Home Minister Amit Shah, when asked if Chouhan would continue to be the CM if the BJP retained power after the elections, had refused to give a direct reply.

“Why are you (the media) doing the party’s work? Our party will do its own work. Shivraj ji is CM and we are in the election…Take the development works of Modi ji (Prime Minister Narendra Modi) and Shivraj ji to the public. Also, highlight if Congress did any development,” Shah had said.

Senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad on Wednesday said his party’s parliamentary board would take a decision on who will be the next chief minister of Madhya Pradesh after it wins the assembly elections and forms a government in the state.

Bhopal-based senior journalist Raghvendra Singh, a native of Budhni, said the Congress has hardly exhibited its combative face in this constituency over the past two decades to put up a challenge before Chouhan.

“The area has not seen any big Congress agitation to make inroads among the electorate here. In addition, the Congress has failed to develop a local political face who can face Chouhan,” he observed.

In the previous assembly polls, Singh said, the Congress had fielded former Union minister Arun Yadav, an outsider for the seat, against Chouhan. “This time too, the battle seems only for the victory margin of Chouhan as the Congress has nominated a lesser-known actor against him,” Singh said.

Since the state CM has represented this seat in the past two decades, people from the constituency also felt privileged and connected with the ruling party, though voters do not speak their minds.

Bhupesh Bhadoria (37), a farmer from Shahganj (part of Budhni assembly seat) who is associated with the Congress, told PTI over the phone that roads have been constructed in his area and the power supply has been decent, though not for growers like him.

Claiming that other districts of the state are lagging behind, Bhadoria said that the problem of unemployment exists in Budhni too. However, the Budhni has witnessed development in the last decade, he said.

When asked if the people in the Budhni area get benefits due to Chouhan being the CM, he replied positively, saying “this election is one-sided (in favour of Chouhan) and everybody wants the chief minister to be from their area.” About BJP not declaring Chouhan as its CM face, Bhadoria said people from their constituency believe he will be the chief minister if BJP wins as no other face has been projected by the saffron party as well.

Mamta Gour (38), Sarpanch of Akola, 22 km from Budhni, told PTI over the phone that 80 per cent of the residents in their village are in favour of the saffron party. Development in the area took place during Chouhan’s regime and people are happy, said Gour, who is associated with the BJP.

Amit Vijayvargiya, a hardware trader in Shahganj, said he heard the name of the Congress candidate for the first time here. “There is no option before the public, who will vote only for the development that took place in the area during Chouhan’s regime,” he said.

Santosh Singh Gautam, state Congress spokesman in-charge of Budhni constituency, claimed Chouhan has found himself in a difficult position after his party fielded Mastal, who is a celebrity face and belongs to this constituency. He said Mastal has been working in the area for long time.

“Illegal sand mining from Narmada river is a big issue in this area. It has been happening for years and Chouhan allows it to continue. What is the reason,” he Gautam.

The Congress functionary said Chouhan is so worried this time that his entire family, including his wife and sons, are camping in Budhni. Chouhan himself visits this constituency at night, he said.

State BJP secretary Rajneesh Agrawal said the down-to-earth personality of Chouhan has not only created a family-like feeling for him in Budhni but also in the entire state.

“The people of Budhni consider Chouhan as a part of the family. The fluctuating margin of victory depends on various reasons but he is loved by the electorate in his constituency,” he said.

About the Congress’ allegations of illegal mining, Agrawal said the rival party could have taken action when it was in power for 15 months. “Why didn’t they stop this if they had proof?” Such allegations are being made to tarnish his image and there is no substance in them, he added.

(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed – PTI)



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