In 2003, when the Uma Bharti-led BJP tried to overthrow two-time CM Digvijaya Singh they fielded Shivraj Chouhan, then a non-entity, against Singh from Raghogarh. Singh hadn’t lost from Raghogarh since 1977, though Chouhan lost he gave Singh a run for his money by securing 34% votes.
Fifteen years later, the Congress has now given ticket to former MPCC president Arun Yadav to take on Shivraj, the three-time CM, from Budhni. Shivraj has been elected from Budhni in each of the last three terms.
There was a buzz in the political circles that in order to corner Shivraj and engage him in Budhni, Congress might opt for Didvijaya Singh’s wife and journalist Amrita Rai. But the party opted for Yadav instead.
The Congress has already handed CM Shivraj a blow by making his brother-in-law Sanjay Singh Masani join Congress and fielding him from Waraseoni in Balaghat.
Irrespective of the outcome of the electoral battle in Budhni, what is certain is that the Congress wants to keep Shivraj busy in his home turf so that he could not afford much time for the remaining 229 seats in the state.
Former Union minister Yadav, the sitting MP from Khandwa, would be a tricky opponent. Exhibiting confidence similar to Chouhan’s in 2003, Yadav told News18 that he was sure of a win and claimed the party would come to power with two-third majority in MP.
Yadav said it was time to seek details of development work done in Budhni in the last 15 years and alleged that Chouhan family destroyed the Narmada river bed through illegal mining.
Shivraj refused to term Yadav as a scapegoat but said the Congress had done him injustice by fielding him from Budhni. “This is nothing but injustice by the Congress to a simple backward leader,” the CM told News18.
Unlike Shivraj, who was dubbed as a greenhorn when being pitted again Diggy ‘Raja’ in 2003, Yadav is a veteran who has defeated BJP bigwigs like Krishna Murari Moghe in Khagone Lok Sabha polls in 2004 and four-time MP Nandkumar Singh Chauhan from Khanda Lok Sabha seat in 2009.
With the Congress in tatters, Yadav was handed the reins of the party in MP in 2014 and almost waged a lonely battle against BJP for next four years. While most of his colleagues had worked with his father late Subhash Yadav, the ex-Deputy CM, Arun Yadav could not enjoy influence of the seniors in the party. Yadav had to finally make way for Kamala Nath.
A sulking Yadav had stopped coming to the Congress state headquarters and even had a meeting with Samajwadi Party chief Akhilesh Yadav, his ‘family friend’. The party had swung into action nominating him as member of Congress Working Committee.
Budhni, considered among the citadels of by BJP in Madhya Pradesh, might not be a tough task for Arun Yadav but his nomination has definitely got the attention of Chouhan at the least.