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|November 17, 1998||
Potential CM Patwa looking for fourth win in Bhojpur
The Congress is claiming that the voters of Bhojpur have been betrayed by veteran Bharatiya Janata Party leader Sunderlal Patwa, who is seeking a fourth term from Bhojpur, a rural constituency of Madhya Pradesh.
Congress nominee Vijay Dhakkad accuses Patwa, a former chief minister, of deserting the constituency by resigning from the seat after he was elected to the Lok Sabha in the Chhindwara byelection last year.
Patwa, one of the contenders for the chief minister's post if the BJP returns to power, had won from Bhojpur in 1985, 1990 and 1993. At present, the seat is held by the BJP, whose candidate Ram Kishan Chouhan defeated Bhupat Singh of the Congress by a slender margin of 4,000 votes in the byelection following Patwa's resignation.
The constituency, in Raisen district, has 1.6 million voters, nearly half of them women.
Others who are in the fray are Maharishi Mahesh Yogi's Ajay Bharat Party nominee Tara Chand Sahu, Bannulal (Gondwana Gantantra Party), Gangaram Gaur (Apana Dal) and Banshilal (Janata Party).
Electioneering is gradually picking up in the constituency but Patwa is yet to undertake an extensive tour since he is busy with the poll campaign in other parts of the state. Both parties are concentrating on the rural areas this time.
The BJP says development of the constituency is the major poll issue since the Digvijay Singh government had ignored the region in the last five years. The Congress, however, claims that Patwa, being an influential leader, did not show any interest in developing the region.
Local Congress leaders are trying to use this as an issue to drive home the point that Patwa had no emotional attachment for the voters of Bhojpur; the BJP workers, meanwhile, say that the people are aware that his victory would mean they could vote in a chief minister.
The Congressmen morale is high since the BJP won by a meagre margin of 4,000 votes in last year's byelection, which compares badly with the 25,000-vote margin Patwa won by in 1993. Patwa had then defeated the son of Congress Working Committee member Arjun Singh, Ajay Singh, in a multi-cornered contest.
''The region lagged behind in development during the last one-and-a-half decades,'' says Mukul Bansal, a corporator of Obaidullahganj and campaign co-ordinator for the Congress candidate.
''Raja Naresh Chandra Singh was chief minister just for 13 days. But there has been more development in his Sarangarh constituency than in Bhojpur during Patwa's 33-month regime,'' Bansal said.
He said his party was also telling the people that there was no guarantee that Patwa would become the chief minister since the BJP had stopped projecting anyone as its candidate for chief ministership.
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