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|September 20, 1999||
Congress makes a desperate comeback attempt in Kanker
The Congress is desperately trying to stage a comeback in the tribal-dominated parts of eastern Madhya Pradesh.
Congress nominee Chhabila Netam, wife of former Union minister Arvind Netam, is pitted against the Bharatiya Janata Party's Sohan Potai, who is seeking re-election from the Kanker Lok Sabha constituency. The presence of the Bahujan Samaj Party's Dr J R Thakur makes the contest triangular, though four other contestants are also in the fray for the September 25 election.
Arvind Netam, who had won this seat as a Congress nominee four times, has been denied a Congress ticket for the third time. Earlier, in 1996, he had been denied a ticket as his name figured in the controversial hawala scandal.
However, the Congressman fielded his wife, Chhabila, who won the seat for the party. The party did not nominate her in the last election since her husband jumped into the fray from Kanker as a BSP candidate.
Netam's entry did not help the BSP, for he even lost his security deposit. In the triangular contest, Sohan Potai won the seat, defeating Mahendra Karma of the Congress.
Netam sees his wife's victory here as a prestige issue. His brother, former state minister Shiv Netam is going door-to-door asking for support for his sister-in-law.
According to Congress sources, the party workers resent the clout of the Netam family in the local unit. They accuse Arvind Netam of favouring those who, along with him, returned to the Congress fold after joining the BSP.
Sohan Potai is fighting this seat for the third time. He lost the 1996 election to Chhabila Netam. He is mainly banking on Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's charisma to bring voters his way.
The electoral arithmetic in this constituency has become a little more complicated by the presence of Anjore Singh, a nominee of the Chhattisgarh Mukti Morcha. The CMM will draw a large number of votes from the mine workers of Dalli-Rajhara.
The BSP, which made its presence felt when Arvind Netam joined it, is providing some competition to his wife now.
The non-tribal community, by and large, was upset earlier when Netam tried to advocate the implementation of the Sixth Schedule of the Constitution in the Bastar region.
The constituency has more than 1,000,000 voters, including 516,000 women.
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