Chhindwara Lok Sabha Seat: Congress Comfort Zone, But Can Kamal Nath’s Family Continue Winning Streak?

7 Min Read

In the highly volatile political space, there are still some seats that are not only loyal but have never thought of electing any other party in the Lok Sabha elections. One such constituency is Chhindwara in Madhya Pradesh, which will go to polls in the first phase on April 19.

The Chhindwara Lok Sabha seat has voted for the Congress more times than any other – 17 out of 17 times. The grand old party has other loyal seats, too, that have recently been in the limelight like Amethi and Raebareli in Uttar Pradesh.

While no other party has won from the seat in the general elections, the BJP’s Sunder Lal Patwa – served as Madhya Pradesh CM – managed to win the 1997 bypoll. The voting pattern of the seat makes it difficult to say if it was loyal to the Congress or to Kamal Nath, particularly after 1980. But, an analysis shows that 11 out of 17 times, it was Nath or his family that was elected from the seat.

In 2019, his son Nakul Nath was elected from the seat and, in 1996, it was his wife Alka. Kamal Nath himself has won from the seat nine times – 1980, 1984, 1989, 1991, 1998, 1999, 2004, 2009 and 2014. He is among a handful of leaders elected five consecutive times (1998-2014) from one seat.

In his first stint, too, from 1980 to 1991, he was elected four consecutive times. Also, he is only one Lok Sabha win away from being in the club of candidates who have been elected the highest number of times – only behind the 10-time win record of CPI’s Indrajit Gupta and former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

Despite it being a BJP wave in 2014 and 2019, the constituency continued its loyalty to its leader and his family. Numbers analysed by News18 shows that, in the 2019 elections, in fact, the Congress got the highest-ever number of votes from this seat.

When it comes to winning margin and vote share, Kamal Nath holds the record from this seat. The highest vote margin was achieved in the 1999 polls when he won with a margin of more than 1.88 lakh votes. Further, it was the 1984 elections when the Congress and Kamal Nath won the seat with the highest-ever vote share of 67.17 per cent.

After him, Gargi Shankar Mishra has served from Chhindwara seat for the longest time and was elected thrice between 1967 and 1977. The numbers show that it was the 1962 election when the Congress won its lowest number of votes from this seat at 81,726.

But, when it comes to winning the seat with the lowest margin, the Congress witnessed its toughest fight in the post-emergency election of 1977; Mishra had won with a margin of only 7,000 votes. The party received its lowest-ever vote share of 26.9 per cent from the seat in the 1957 election.

Congress vs BJP after 1991

Also, after 1991, the seat has witnessed a fight between the BJP and Congress with the saffron party ending in the second spot throughout. In 1984, too, the BJP came second but the toughest challenge the Congress faced was when Alka was the candidate – the only female MP from the seat. That year, BJP’s Choudhary Chandrabhan Singh Kuber Singh bagged 2.60 lakh votes – only 21,000 fewer than Alka’s 2.81 lakh votes.

Why did Kamal Nath skip the 1996 and 2019 polls?

In Chhindwara’s history, 1996 was different. The seat had a woman in the game, although for a brief period and just as a dummy candidate. Kamal Nath was denied a ticket as he was chargesheeted in the Rs 65 crore Jain hawala case.

In its chargesheet, the CBI alleged that the Jain brothers had given Rs 22 lakh as bribe to Kamal Nath between November 1989 and April 1991 when he was an MP.

But, to save the seat and Kamal Nath turning rebel – like Madhavrao Scindia who formed the Madhya Pradesh Vikas Congress on being denied the ticket – his wife Alka got a chance. She managed well but only to vacate the seat for Kamal Nath next year after he was discharged from the case.

The seat went for a bypoll in 1997, but the people did not accept Kamal Nath. The BJP won as Sunder Lal Patwa bagged the seat by a margin of a little more than 37,600 votes. The next year, in the 1998 Lok Sabha polls, Nath defeated Patwa with a margin of 1.53 lakh votes.

He swept the next five Lok Sabha polls from the seat without fail. In the 2014 elections, Chhindwara was among the two seats won by the Congress in the state; the other being Guna, won by Jyotiraditya Scindia.

Little before the 2019 polls, in December 2018, he took charge as the Madhya Pradesh chief minister; this is when Nakul came into the picture and was the lone Congress MP from the state that year.

The 2024 battle

Yet again, the Congress has given the ticket to Nakul for the 2024 polls. This time, he is facing Vivek Bunty Sahu, twice defeated by Nath in the assembly polls. In the 2019 bypoll, he defeated Sahu by about 26,000 votes and, in 2023, by about 36,600 votes.

All the seven assembly seats in Chhindwara Lok Sabha constituency are held by the Congress. The seat is critical for both the BJP and Congress, and both are confident that they will win.

While for the Congress the seat is important as it not only has the legacy of 17 Lok Sabha elections, but it is the sole seat that the party controls in Madhya Pradesh. The BJP, however, will leave no stone unturned to win the seat it has never managed to get.

Share This Article
Leave a comment