It is not for nothing that even the politically uninitiated outside Madhya Pradesh associate Chhindwara with Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath. The large constituency has been a family pocket borough for nearly four decades.
Kamal Nath, who won the seat for the first time in 1980, has made way for his son Nakul Nath, 44, who is contesting his maiden election this time. The senior Nath is also contesting a by-election from the assembly segment of the same name to validate his stay in office.
Kamal Nath’s wife Alka won the seat in 1996 because her husband did not contest in the wake of the hawala scam. She resigned in 1997 and in the by-election held that year, former BJP chief minister Sunderlal Patwa defeated Kamal Nath — his only electoral defeat.
When the Congress formed the government in Madhya Pradesh in December 2018, Kamal Nath was not an MLA. The Congress won all seven assembly seats, including the four reserved constituencies, in the district.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a rally in Chhindwara ahead of the Assembly election in 2018 and devoted a major portion of his speech to try and demolish what is known as Chhindwara model of development. Modi claimed that the model was a myth and that factories and other establishments that could have provided jobs are non-functional. Modi also addressed rallies in Sidhi and Jabalpur on Friday during which he referred to the recent income tax raids on the premises owned by people close to Kamal Nath and alleged that the money recovered was earned from the “transfer industry’’.
While Kamal Nath had to choose where he will contest from between Saunsar and Chhindwara assembly segments, his son’s candidature was not a matter of conjecture. As chief minister, Kamal Nath had announced his son’s candidature even before the party declared it officially. Nakul’s answer to constant queries from reporters about when the official announcement would be made was simple — “the day you see me in a kurta-pyjama’’.
Chhindwara and Guna (represented by Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia) were the only two seats the Congress won despite the wave in favour of Narendra Modi in 2014. The BJP won 27 out of 29 parliamentary seats in the state, improving its previous best of 25 clocked in the 2004 elections.
The BJP has fielded former MLA Nathan Shah Kavreti against Nakul Nath. A tribal, Kavreti is a former RSS functionary. Three of the seven assembly segments that constitute Chhindwara parliamentary seat are reserved for tribals.
No senior Congress leader from outside the state campaigned in Chhindwara. The party, however, get new entrant Shatrughan Sinha to campaign for Nakul Nath.