MP CM's wife campaigns in Budhni

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Budhni, MP, Nov 23: It's woman power at work in this rural constituency where stakes are high for Madhya Pradesh's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as its Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is in the fray seeking a second term for his government to complete its ''development agenda.'' As Mr Chouhan's emergence as a BJP star campaigner is compelling him to stay away from his constituency, his wife Sadhana Singh has donned the mantle of campaign manager.

Despite enjoying a discernible edge courtesy multi-faceted development work and coming up of industrial units since Mr Chouhan assumed the reins three years back, ''Bhabhi'' is not ready to take chances and undertakes door-to-door canvassing for ''Bhaiyya'' in the company of a few women.

Mr Chouhan -- hailing from a farmer's family -- is yet to tour the constituency, BJP sources said while adding, ''the son of Jait village does not need to campaign on home turf.'' ''Since you have invited me to contest from your area, you manage yourself,'' Mr Chouhan reportedly told a group of BJP workers and declined to campaign for himself.

After assuming power on November 29, 2005, Mr Chouhan -- then a Lok Sabha member -- successfully contested the Budhni bypoll and scored a massive margin of 36,000 votes against his Congress rival Raj Kumar Patel. In the 2003 hustings, the BJP's Rajendra Singh won the seat by a margin exceeding 10,000 votes.

The sprawling constituency on the bank of the Narmada river has a primarily agricultural economy with most farmers belonging to the dominant Kirar community -- to which the Chief Minister himself belongs -- taking up horticulture and vegetable-growing in a major way. A notable establishment in the area is the Agriculture Ministry's tractor-testing centre.

Divided into 235 polling booths, the constituency has a 1,68,003-strong electorate -- including 78,163 women -- and 13 candidates including four independents.

Though Mr Chouhan's main rival is Mr Mahesh Singh Rajput of the state's main opposition Congress, nominees of the Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party, Lok Jan Shakti Party, Gondwana Ganatantra Party, Shiv Sena, Bharatiya Jan Shakti and Gondwana Mukti Sena are also in the fray.

Besides the 2006 byelection, the BJP won the seat in 2003, 1993, 1990 and 1985, Janata Party in 1977 and Congress in 1998 and 1980.

Development is the main poll plank in this constituency, part of Vidisha Lok Sabha constituency that was held by Mr Chouhan earlier.

Mr Chouhan was first elected to the assembly from Budhni in 1990, though he had to quit two years later to contest the Lok Sabha poll.

Mr Chouhan's detractors vociferously raise frequent power-cuts and non-availability of water for irrigation to counter the development claim.


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