Murlidhar Lodhi of Uttar Pradesh works anxiously at preparing a welcome for his close relatives from across the Madhya Pradesh border.
He lives in Supa village of Mahoba district,part of Uma Bhartis Charkhari Assembly seat,and each of his four grandsons has married a girl from MPs Chhatarpur district,part of the Khajuraho Lok Sabha seat that the leader has won several times.
Supas Lodhi voters have never missed an opportunity to visit Chhatarpur whenever Uma Bharti has contested from Kahjuraho,Murlidhar Lodhi says,and now its Supas turn to play host. Uma Bharti will contest an election from our Charkhari, he says,as he goes about his preparations. This is question of the Lodhis pride.
Villagers say every Lodhi household from one side has at least one daughter-in-law or one son-in-law from the other side. We may be two states but the Lodhis are one, says Ram Kripal Singh Rajpoot.
Supa,about 20km away from the MP border,has more than 1,500 Lodhis in a total of about 4,500 voters. The other major population is that of Brahmins. The village is politically active that it had as many as 46 candidates for the post of gram pradhan in last years panchayat elections.
Little other than the political boundary divides Supa from Madhya Pradesh. Charkhari,which was a princely state before Independence,was first made part of the erstwhile Vindhya Pradesh comprising several princely states of Madhya Pradesh,then merged into Uttar Pradesh.
It was on veteran freedom fighter Govind Vallabh Pants insistence that Charkhari was made a part of Uttar Pradesh. He used to refer Charkhari as the Kashmir of Bundelkhand because of its natural beauty, says Manoj Tiwari,former chairman of Mahoba municipality..
And Charkhari is not new ground for Uma Bharti either. She camped here during the last Assembly elections. Her then Bhartiya Janshakti Party had fielded Anil Kumar Ahirwar from this seat, says Suraj Saini,who is doing a diploma in homeopathy. Charkhari was then a reserved seat; delimitation has made it a general one. Anil Kumar Ahirwar,meanwhile,is now the BJP nominee from Rath.
The sitting MLA too is Anil Ahirwar,of the BSP. There is no Brahmin candidate,which could work to Uma Bhartis advantage. Brahmins matter in this seat. Since the Congress has blindly embraced Mandal politics in this elections,we have no alternative but to support Uma Bharti in this seat, says Bharat Bhushan Shukla of Supa. He says it is after a long gap that Supas Brahmins and Lodhis would both be on the BJP side. The BSP has fielded Dhu Ram Choudhari (a Lodhi candidate),the SP Kaptan Singh Lodhi,and the Congress Ramjivan Yadav,who was in the SP till a few days before the Congress nominated him.
Most of Uma Bhartis supporters see her also as their next candidate from the Hamirpur Lok Sabha seat,of which Charkhari is a segment. Other than Charkhari,the Mahoba Assembly seat too falls in Mahoba district. Manoj Tiwaris grandfather Babu Lal Tewari was a three-time Congress MLA from Mahoba.
Uma should eventually ensure the nomination of her chosen candidates from Mahoba, a BJP leader of Mahoba says. He says former minister Badshah Singh,who has joined the BJP along with former family welfare minister Babu Singh Kushwaha recently,is in the race for the Mahoba ticket and the party might not be in a position to oblige Uma as of now.
Charkhari is also known for large-scale paan cultivation. Villagers say betel leaves are supplied to cities of Madhya Pradesh and as far as West Bengal.
Charkhari constituency comprises three blocks Charkhari,Paanwari,Jaitpura and the notified town area of Kulpahar and the municipality of Charkhari,has about 3.08 lakhs voters. It was a reserved seat for three decades till delimitation changed it. It has never repeated its MLA since 1985,and has been won by parties as varied as the Congress,the BJP and the 1993 alliance of the BSP and the SP. The last leader to win twice was Mihi Lal of the Congress,in 1985 and 1991.