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Wednesday, November 25, 2020

In Imarti seat, Kamal Nath’s remark ‘not issue’; voters flag dip in mandi rates, high power bills

Once considered a stronghold of Narottam Mishra, now state Home Minister, the constituency has 41 per cent OBC voters and 24 per cent SC voters.

Written by Iram Siddique | Bhopal | October 31, 2020 1:52:15 am
At a mechanic’s workshop in Dabra. (Express photo by Iram Siddique)

As the BJP plays up state Congress chief Kamal Nath’s “item” remark against its candidate Imarti Devi in the run-up to Dabra Assembly bypoll, people in the constituency rue lack of development and raise issues such as crashing grain prices in the mandi and soaring electricity bills.

State Women and Child Development Minister Devi, who was among the Congress MLAs whose resignation brought down the Kamal Nath government, has won the seat thrice in a row since 2008, when the seat was reserved for SC nominees.

Against the three-time MLA, the Congress has fielded Suresh Raje.

Once considered a stronghold of Narottam Mishra, now state Home Minister, the constituency has 41 per cent OBC voters and 24 per cent SC voters.

Sitting outside a mechanic’s shop about 10 km from Dabra’s main chouraha, Sitaram Sharma, a rice farmer, said he has been a “core BJP voter” on account of being a Brahmin — about 14 per cent of Dabra voters.

Sharma said he would earlier vote for anyone vouched for by Mishra, “but not anymore”. Rice prices have crashed in the mandis and electricity bills have shot up, he said. Having received Rs 60,000 in his account and Rs 35,000 in his wife’s account as farm loan waiver after the Kamal Nath government swore in, he now wants the Congress back in power.

“If the Congress returns, we will gain. If not, we have to endure,” he said, adding, “Chouhan is a good man, but there has been no work.”

The mandi in Dabra recently saw a protest by farmers after the paddy rates were down to Rs 1,300 per quintal. Subsequently, an FIR was registered against 113 farmers.

Neither Sharma nor Arvind Pandey, who sipped tea outside a stall, feel Nath’s “item” remark will affect their voting. “Ye toh bas ek hasi thithole ki baat thi jo neta apne aap mein karte rehte hai. Bas hogai. Wo koi mudda thodi hai (That was just a jocular remark leaders make. That’s no issue),” said Pandey.

Pankaj Upadhyaya, standing beside him, said, “The farmers are in terrible shape. Half completed dams are lying deserted and farmers are struggling with no water. No one is talking about real issues.”

Picchora tehsil in Dabra has seen at least three meetings by BJP’s Rajya Sabha MP Jyotiraditya Scindia, whose rebellion brought down the Congress government. Farmer Dharmendra Baghel said, “Maharaj (Scindia) should not have done this… Ever since BJP government came, the mandi has crashed.”

At the market surrounding Agarsen chouraha in Dabra, it is business as usual. Paint shop owner Anand Gupta said he has been a supporter of BJP and home minister Mishra, but now wants the Congress to stage a comeback. “The development in Dabra has not even been 25 per cent in two decades. Mishra was a three-time MLA, but nothing happened. Imarti Devi’s tenure is no good either,” he said.

In the adjacent utensil shop, Brijendra Aggarwal echoed Gupta’s view. Complaining about waterlogging during rain, his elderly mother joined in, “The whole scooter is submerged. Not a single drain has been made here.”

Aggarwal’s said business is slow, first due to the lockdown and now because he cannot get stock from Mumbai due to limited rail traffic.

Some, however, do not have much hope from Raje. “Kamal Nath did good work and had reduced electricity bills substantially but we’ll vote for Imarti Devi and BJP,” said Raj Kumar Jain, also a utensil shopowner.

Mukesh Aggarwal, another shopowner, argued that Dabra did not see development as it never had an MLA from the ruling party. “With the BJP government in the state, we want to choose a BJP candidate and see if there is any change on ground,” said Mukesh.

The daily hustle-bustle of the market was disrupted by the drone of the helicopter carrying Sachin Pilot and Kamal Nath for a poll meeting nearby.

With Raje standing beside him, Pilot urged the farmers to not forget atrocities inflicted in Mandsaur and raised the Vyapam scam during the previous BJP rule in the state.

Sitting at a nearby sweet shop, Dinesh Pandey, who claimed he is a BJP worker, said Raje will give a tough fight to Imarti Devi. “Par sarkar to BJP ki hi rahegi.”

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