Chouhan in Bhopal on Friday. He said the Congress had done injustice to Arun Yadav twice. (PTI photo)
Former Union minister and Congress leader Arun Yadav on Friday filed his nomination from Budhni constituency, which has sent Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan to the Madhya Pradesh Assembly since 2006 and given him a bigger victory margin with every contest. Like his rival, Yadav visited temples and worshipped the Narmada river on the day of filing his nomination. He said he felt honoured that the Congress had considered him for taking on a chief minister. “We will fight together to defeat him,” he said.
Speaking to reporters, Chouhan said the Congress had done injustice to Yadav twice — first by removing him from the post of state Congress chief and now by asking him to contest elections on unfamiliar terrain. “Nevertheless, I welcome Arunbhai,” he said.
Unlike the CM, who was born in a village near Budhni, Yadav belongs to Khargone. His father Subhash Yadav was a former deputy chief minister and a strong cooperative leader. But like the CM, Yadav also belongs to the OBC community, whose votes will be crucial in this election. “We are a naive people and occasionally fall prey to machinations,” Chouhan said, hinting at his and his opponent’s OBC background. He insinuated that the Congress had sacrificed Yadav by throwing him into a battle that he would not win.
Yadav, however, appeared unfazed. “I am not here to just keep him occupied. I am here to win,” he said while leaving for Budhni to file his nomination. “It’s a fight between a real and a fake kisan putra,” he said.
He alleged that the income of many of Chouhan’s ministerial colleagues, who also identify themselves as farmers, had increased overwhelmingly in the last few years. On the other hand, many farmers were committing suicide, he said, seeking the CM’s explanation for this. A former Lok Sabha member from Khandwa, Yadav said he also grew up on the banks of the Narmada and was challenging a CM who is insincere about the sacred river. He accused Chouhan of involvement in illegal mining in the Narmada.
Yadav was Pradesh Congress Committee chief till this April. When his nomination was announced, none had anticipated that the Congress would field Yadav, who had announced that he would contest neither the Assembly nor the general elections after being replaced by Congress veteran Kamal Nath. After his removal, he had told the media indirectly that he had worked hard during his four-year stint as PCC chief and just when the “crop was ready for harvest” the leadership had changed. Recently, he met SP chief Akhilesh Yadav in Bhopal.
When Chouhan filed his nomination, he had announced that he would not return to Budhni to campaign and would devote his time to other parts of the state until the elections are over. On Friday, Chouhan reiterated that he would go to Budhni only to cast his vote.
Budhni is part of Vidisha Lok Sabha constituency, now represented by Union minister Sushma Swaraj. Chouhan won from Budhni Assembly seat for the first time in 1990 by a margin of 22,810 votes. The next year, he contested the Lok Sabha election from Vidisha. From 1991, he won Vidisha Lok Sabha seat five times before the party named him CM in November 2005.
After a gap of 15 years, he again contested from Budhni in the 2006 bypoll and won it by a margin of 36,525 votes. In 2008, the margin increased to 41,526 votes and in 2013 to 84,805 votes.
In the previous elections, the Congress candidates were not strong. Incidentally, Rajkumar Patel, one of Chouhan’s opponents in Budhni, was expelled by the Congress after he failed to submit his nomination form in time when the party fielded him against Swaraj.
Chouhan suffered his only electoral loss when the BJP made him contest against Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh from Raghogarh constituency in 2003.