Dimani (Madhya Pradesh): Time ticks by slowly in this sleepy Chambal region where voters' old loyalties and everyday experiences tend to trump grander themes political parties ply to win their support.
Billed by his supporters as a chief ministerial contender, Union Minister Narendra Singh Tomar is relying on his stature to cut through these challenges to snatch the seat from the Congress.
Dimani has been seen as a difficult seat for the BJP as the Congress, after winning it in 2018, had managed to retain the constituency even in the 2020 assembly by-election, handing over a crushing defeat to incumbent MLA Girraj Dandotiya who had resigned along with other supporting MLAs of Jyotiraditya Scindia as they switched to the saffron party.
The BJP is hopeful that Tomar, a former minister in the Madhya Pradesh government who has also been the state party president, will be able to bridge the fault lines that damaged its prospects in the entire Chambal-Gwalior region that has 34 seats in 2018, but he has his work cut out.
Thakurs, the caste he hails from, are the largest community in the constituency and a big chunk of them are energised by Tomar's presence. Kanwal Singh Tomar and Malkhan Singh Tomar, both farmers from Bholarampur village, say it is natural for them to vote for the BJP leader as he has risen from the ground to become a "desh ka bada mantri" (country's big minister).
"We should not be seen pulling down a member of the community who has reached such a high place," Malkhan Singh Tomar says.
While many locals question as to what the BJP leader has done for Morena, which he currently represents in Lok Sabha, his supporters say he helped build damns to expand the area of farmland under irrigation and added to the road network. Dimani is one of the six assembly constituencies under Morena district.
Dinesh Yadav and Shiv Dayal Sharma of Jigani claim that the area has not benefited from Tomar's political stature.
Has he been able to bring a single job, Sharma asks.
Brahmins and Scheduled Castes are also in large numbers in the constituency, and the appeal of the BJP's high-profile candidate appears limited among them.
While the BJP named Tomar as its candidate on September 25, the Congress announced sitting MLA Ravindra Singh Tomar as its nominee only on October 19 amid speculation that it was considering fielding a candidate from some other community.
Troubles will deepen for the Union agriculture minister if the Congress candidate manages to walk away with a chunk of Thakur votes.
However, the presence of former MLA and BSP leader Balveer Singh Dandotiya could be a crucial factor. If he fights the elections, something which he has already announced, then conventional equations may not count.
A rich businessman, Dandotiya is a Brahmin and enjoys influence in parts of the constituency, and a division in the opposition votes may benefit the BJP.
The BJP has been losing from the seat for the last three polls after winning it for three successive elections till 2008.
The BJP has fielded three Union ministers in the state, where polls are slated for November 17, in the hope that their presence will have a positive impact in those regions.
Narendra Singh Tomar has risen through the BJP's ranks through his organisational abilities and successive assembly and Lok Sabha election wins. At 66 years of age, he may be fighting his most important election yet.