MP Lok Sabha Elections 2024: Is Nath’s Chhindwara Impenetrable For BJP?

MP Lok Sabha Elections 2024: Is Nath’s Chhindwara Impenetrable For BJP?

In the 72 years of the constituency’s history, BJP has been able to break through the fort only once in 1997 by-elections.

Anamika PathakUpdated: Thursday, April 18, 2024, 10:13 AM IST
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Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh): The Chhindwara constituency in Madhya Pradesh is preparing for a major showdown in the first phase of the 2024 Lok Sabha elections due of April 19. In the last General Elections, BJP had won 28 out of 29 Lok Sabha seats of the state, barring Chhindwara. The Congress party’s lone bastion in the state is gearing up for an intense battle as this time BJP is specifically targeting Chhindwara.

Speaking of candidates here, its a repeat of 2019 elections. Senior Congress leader and former chief minister Kamal Nath’s son Nakul Nath will fight BJP’s Vivek Bunty Sahu.

The grand old party has held the parliamentary constituency since it came into existence in 1951. Kamal Nath has represented the seat in Lok Sabha nine times since 1980, when former PM Indira Gandhi had introduced him to the Chhindwara public as her third son.

Since then, BJP has been able to break through the fort only once in 1997 by-elections. The saffron clan could conquer the Nath's bastion merely once in 72 years

Is Nath's’ ‘Chhindwara Fort’ really impenetrable?

The impenetrability of this fort of Congress can be gauged from the fact that in the elections held after the Emergency in 1977, Congress had to face a crushing defeat across the country, but had won in Chhindwara. When Kamal Nath started contesting elections from Chhindwara, he gradually made it his stronghold.

When BJP's Sunderlal Patwa defeated Kamal Nath in Chhindwara

Only once was this fort breached and Kamal Nath had to face defeat. In the year 1996, Kamal Nath's name had figured in the Hawala scandal. Sensing resentment against Nath, the party did not give him ticket and fielded his wife Alka Nath in the elections. However, with the help of strong influence of Kamal Nath in the region, Alka Nath won the election with a huge margin.

Later, as soon as the Hawala scandal cooled down, Alka Nath resigned from her post within eight months of becoming an MP, all on the instructions of Kamal Nath. There was resentment among the common people in the area when the elected MP suddenly resigned from the post. BJP took the opportunity and launched a campaign in the entire district labelling it as an insult to women.

Former CM Sunderlal Patwa

Former CM Sunderlal Patwa | jainsamaj.org

BJP veteran and former CM Sunderlal Patwa had camped in Chhindwara to contest the 1997 by-elections against Kamal Nath. He reached 20 to 40 villages of almost every assembly constituency and held meetings, capitalsing on the issue of insulting women.

Digvijaya Singh, being the chief minister of the state at the time had left no stone unturned to ensure Kamal Nath’s victory. A day ahead of voting, the entry of four-wheelers was banned in the district.

However, all efforts went futile and Sunderlal Patwa defeated Kamal Nath by 37,680 votes. Intesentingly, the number is dangerously close to the margin by which current Chhindwara MP Nakul Nath won the 2019 General Elections (37,536).

Close aides switched sides

The reason why situation has tensed up so much this time is because several close aides of Kamal Nath, including Chhindwara Mayor Vikram Ahike have recently switched to BJP. While the party managed to gain victory on all the assembly seats — Junnardeo, Amarwara, Chourai, Sausar, Chhindwara, Parasiya, and Pandhurna — of the parliamentary constituency in the 2023 elections, Amarwara MLA Kamlesh Shah joined BJP in March this year. Similarly, ex-minister Deepak Saxena also quit Congress to join BJP. Most of these leaders pointed out that Congress seemed ‘directionless’ under Nakul Nath.

Vivek Sahu, aka ‘Bunty’

Vivek Sahu, aka ‘Bunty’ |

'Local Boy' Vs 'Outsider'

BJP candidate Vivek Bunty Sahu has faced Kamal Nath twice in the assembly elections, losing both the times, though with narrow margins, considering that his opponent is a veteran leader and was fighting from his stronghold. While in the 2019 by-polls Sahu lost to Nath by 25,000 votes, the margin increased a little in 2023 assembly elections and Nath won by 36,000 votes.

Sahu, BJP’s Chhindwara district unit chief, is a popular leader of the area and BJP is trying hard to capitalise on his ‘local boy’ image.

Chief Minister Mohan Yadav commented, "Chhindwara is not a stronghold of the Congress. Depending on one family for candidates is the party's weakness. However, this time, the people of Chhindwara have chosen to support a local candidate and say goodbye to the outsider." Kamal Nath has faced the ‘outsider’ allegations in the predominantly tribal constituency earlier in his political career as well.

Chhindwara is scheduled to hold elections on April 19, with the results set to be announced on June 4.

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