Mastal has the tough job of taking on Chouhan from the Budhni seat in Sehore district, which is the chief minister’s stronghold. He joined the Congress in July, and was one among many who condemned the language used by the character of Hanuman in the Bollywood movie Adipurush. He said the words used have hurt religious sentiments and must be removed.
According to a report published by Hindustan Times, Mastal had said: “How you want the world to perceive Indian culture? Would we have visited the temple to worship Hanuman ji if he had actually been like this in the Ramayana? It is obvious that your goal in creating this movie is a financial benefit. I am against Om Raut ji and the writer of the film and ask them to remove these dialogues from the movie.”
The HT report also states that Mastal, who appeared alongside Gurmeet Choudhary and Debina Bonnerjee in Ramayan, has featured in the movie Top Gear (2022), web series Battle of Saragarhi (2017) and Aashram (2020).
Chouhan’s name appeared in the BJP’s fourth list that was released on October 9. In the previous assembly elections, however, the CM won the seat by a margin of more than 58,000 votes by defeating former union minister and senior Congress leader Arun Yadav.
The opposition party in Madhya Pradesh, Congress has given tickets to 69 sitting MLAs in the first list. State Congress president and former CM Kamal Nath has been fielded from his home turf Chhindwara, from where he is the MLA at present.
It has fielded Rajya Sabha member Digvijaya Singh’s son Jaivardhan Singh from Raghogarh and brother Lakshman Singh from Chachoura in Guna, both sitting MLAs. Leader of opposition in the state assembly Dr Govind Singh has been fielded from Lahar constituency in Bhind district.
Former BJP MP Bodh Singh Bhagat, who recently joined the Congress, has been fielded from Katangi in Balaghat district. The first list of Congress candidates also includes former ministers Ajay Singh (Churhat), Ramnivas Rawat (Vijaypur), Lakhan Singh Yadav (Bhitarwar), Harsh Yadav (Deori), Mukesh Nayak (Pawai), Kamleshwar Patel (Sihawal), Lakha Ghanghoriya (Jabalpur-East), Tarun Bhanot (Jabalpur-West), Omkar Singh Markam (Dindori), Sukhdev Panse (Multai), Sajjan Singh Verma (Sonkatch), Vijay Laxmi Sadho (Maheshwar), Sachin Yadav (Kasrawad), Bala Bachchan (Rajpur), Jitu Patwari (Rau), Priyavrat Singh (Khilchipur) and Narendra Nahta (Manasa).
They served as ministers either during the previous Kamal Nath-led government or the Digvijaya Singh regime of the Congress in the state earlier. In Bhopal district, Manoj Shukla has been fielded from Narela, sitting MLA Arif Masood from Bhopal Central and Jaishri Harikiran from Berasia. The Congress has fielded Chintamani Choukse Chintu from Indore-2 and Raja Mandhwani from Indore-4.
The ruling BJP has so far announced the names of 136 candidates, including seven Lok Sabha members. These include three union ministers – Narendra Singh Tomar, Prahlad Singh Patel and Faggan Singh Kulaste.
In the 2018 assembly polls, the Congress won 114 seats in the 230-member House and formed a coalition government under Nath with the support of the Samajwadi Party, Bahujan Samaj Party and independent MLAs. This, however, collapsed after 15 months when a section of Congress MLAs, most of them loyal to union minister Jyotiraditya Scindia, quit the party and joined the BJP. Hence, the BJP returned to power in March 2020 with Chouhan taking over as CM for a record fourth term.
(With PTI inputs)