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To his voters, Kamal Nath has become Chhindwara
“Kamal Nath ek aandhi hai, Chhindwara ka Gandhi hai.’’ As the slogan rents the air at his penultimate campaign rally in Parasia on Tuesday, the union minister gets a little restless, perhaps worried about the import of the larger message.
While the sloganeers obviously have the father of the nation in mind, Nath has every reason to believe it could be misconstrued to mean his political bosses.
In this pocket borough, which he has represented for more than three decades, Nath means many things to his voters —sarpanch, MLA, MP, chief minister or messiah. There’s no mention of Sonia, Rahul or even the Congress,. It’s mostly Nath’s visage visible in the constituency, the only backdrop to his rallies.
He reminds his audience how backward the district was in 1980, when he parachuted here due to his proximity with Sanjay Gandhi, and takes credit for everything that has changed for the better: roads, bridges, factories, rails.
“There was nothing in 1980. Even in 1984 bullock carts used to ply here. The whole village would come out if they spotted a jeep. Today if even I come here in a jeep, they shut their doors to avoid pollution. Today you can go to any corner of the country and proudly say Hum Chhindwara se hai,’’ he says.
There are many takers for his rhetoric among the audience, which crowds in to see him land in a helicopter on a helipad behind his huge bungalow in Shikarpur.
The 67-year-old does not even name his BJP rival Chaudhary Chandrabhan Singh, whom he has already defeated twice in the past, and instead targets Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan calling him a liar and a kalakar who keeps a coconut in his pocket so that he can announce new projects.
Nath’s rivals, however, accuse him of buying votes and voters by spending lavishly in the run up to the campaign, and wowing the crowds with his helicopter sorties. Nath declared assets totalling more than Rs 187 crore, making him the richest candidate in the state.
In 2003, the BJP led all assembly segments in the Chhindwara Lok Sabha constituency but in the general elections a few months later Nath emerged victorious. Nath has lost the seat only once to the BJP and his wife represented it once briefly in the mid-1990s.
Chouhan appeals to voters to end the BJP’s exile here. “Even Lord Ram’s vanvas ended after 14 years but the BJP’s ordeal has continued for 34 years,’’ the CM said at BJP rallies Monday while appealing for votes with folded hands.
The RSS has been active in the state for the last few days but it’s the Narendra Modi factor and continued…