Once you enter Vidisha town, 60 kilometres from Madhya Pradesh's [ Images ] capital Bhopal, you can't possibly miss Sushma Swaraj. She beams from every possible facade, shop fronts to car windows.
The constituency is very, very special for the Bharatiya Janata Party in a state that is special for the party. When it comes to representation, you could forgive Vidisha's constituents if they have swagger that comes only to the manor born. The constituency is the BJP's equivalent of an Amethi or Rae Bareily.
In 1991 Atal Bihari Vajpayee [ Images ] contested and won the seat. When he moved to Lucknow [ Images ], Shivraj Singh Chauhan represented Vidisha in the Lok Sabha till he became chief minister. If you wind the clock back further, the constituency has in the past sent Indian Express founder Ramnath Goenka to Parliament.
For students of history, one of the earliest governors of the district was Asoka. In fact, when the later emperor established Sanchi, it was keeping in mind the economic strength of neighbouring Vidisha.
Swaraj, who began campaigning early, began concentrating in three other constituencies that she is in charge of. "She will campaign in Vidisha on April 21, the last day of campaigning. Till then she will campaign for candidates in other constituencies," her election manager said.
Meanwhile, in Vidisha, the mood in the BJP camp has been dampened by the fact that she will have no serious opposition. The main party office was deserted last weekend. Only the party in-charge for Vidisha and two of his aides were sitting in the large party hall that doubles up as the party office.
"We had organised a lot of Jan Sabhas. But the turnout was very low. The people are asking what is the point if Sushmaji is going to win anyway," says a BJP worker outside the office.
The party in-charge, Brij Kishore Chaurasia, however, is not taking any chances. He is working the phone lines furiously and ticking off from a long list of party workers who have been entrusted with mobilising voters. "Sushmaji has won this constituency already. Ever since the Congress candidate bungled his nomination form, it has become a default victory," Chaurasia says.
There are two versions of the Congress candidate's nomination being rejected. While some say it was a genuine goof-up that cost Raj Kumar Patel his candidature, others allege he was in league with the BJP. Asked about this, Chaurasia provides a third explanation: "We understand that he realised there was no point in spending a lot of money and yet ending up losing. So he made deliberate mistakes."
Explaining his biggest problem, Chaurasia says complacency has crept in and he is keeping BJP workers on their toes. More than the workers it is the complacency in voters that bothers Chaurasia. "Now our fear is that people may stay away from the polling booth, thinking that their votes will not make a difference since Sushmaji is unopposed. We have to find a way to infuse enthusiasm in the voters and bring them to the polling booths on voting day," he said.
Asked about complaints this correspondent heard in the villages that the region has not developed much despite neighbouring Bhopal, he listed some of the ruling BJP government's schemes. "More than bijli sadak (electiricity, roads)), we are proud of what our chief minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan has done for the women of the state," he says.
"The state puts a small amount in an account in the name of every first born girl child in the state. By the time the girl is 18, she has Rs 1 lakh in her account. There are many such schemes for the girl child and this is what we are proud of."
Photograph: Uday Kuckian