Madhya Pradesh Congress president Kamal Nath, seeking a return to power after his abrupt exit as chief minister in March 2020, faces a formidable challenge from the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the upcoming 17 November assembly polls in his home constituency of Chhindwara.
The 76-year-old Congress leader, known for his devotion to Lord Hanuman, is up against BJP candidate Vivek Bunty Sahu, a 'Shiv bhakt' (devotee of Lord Shiva), in a rematch from the 2018 polls.
In the previous election, Kamal Nath secured victory with a margin of 25,837 votes, but Sahu, backed by the BJP machinery, is determined to reverse that outcome.
The BJP's efforts include highlighting Nath's alleged absence from his constituency and questioning his commitment to development.
The campaign also emphasises religious affiliations, with Nath showcasing his Hanuman bhakt image and Sahu projecting himself as a devotee of Lord Shiva.
The BJP, aiming to unseat Nath from his stronghold, has deployed election managers from Delhi and Bhopal, as well as teams from Gujarat, the home state of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Union Home Minister Amit Shah.
The contest is marked by a clash of generations, with Sahu targeting young and women voters, and the Congress relying on Nath's political legacy and development initiatives in Chhindwara.
As the election approaches, both candidates are actively engaging in religious symbolism, with Nath hosting religious preachers and showcasing his Hanuman idol, while Sahu consecrated an 84-foot-tall idol of Lord Shiva.
The BJP's campaign seeks to portray Nath as neglecting his constituency, while the Congress highlights Chhindwara's development under Nath's leadership.
The election narrative also touches on personal aspects, with the BJP criticising Nath for allegedly being "anti-women" by making his wife resign in 1997 to contest elections.
Sahu alleges Nath's betrayal of Chhindwara over the years, emphasising youth unemployment.
The battle for Chhindwara is intense, with both parties deploying loud campaigns, rallies, and door-to-door outreach.
The outcome of this closely watched contest will not only impact the political landscape of Madhya Pradesh but may also influence the potential return of Kamal Nath as the chief minister if Congress emerges victorious.
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