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Campaign Trail: Train from Delhi to Chhindwara chugs on election steam

twitter-logo PTI        Last Updated: April 25, 2019  | 13:43 IST

By Neelabh Srivastava On board Patalkot Express, Apr 25 (PTI) Election, election, election… talk on the ongoing polls ebbs and flows, keeping time as it were with the rhythmic movement of the train from New Delhi to Chhindwara, as passengers endlessly discuss the permutations and combinations of the country’s complex electoral formula. As the Patalkot Express chugs its way from the national capital to the new power centre of Chhindwara, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath’s turf, the discussion centres almost exclusively on politics and which way the 29 Lok Sabha seats in the state will go. From the humble second class coaches to air-conditioned first class coaches, first time voters and political veterans across classes exchange views and debate, sometimes amicably, sometimes acrimoniously. A number of people, who hail from Madhya Pradesh, but work in Delhi, Agra, Gwalior and Bhopal are frequent travellers on this train. "Madhya Pradesh is very important when it comes to forming the government in Delhi. We send 29 MPs. I think the voters are comparing the work of PM Narendra Modi in Delhi and the state Congress that took charge recently after assembly polls in November last year," said advocate Rajeev Singh. Singh boarded an AC three-tier coach of the train from Gwalior to go up to Bhopal and was discussing elections with fellow passengers. Madhya Pradesh will vote over four phases beginning on April 29. In 2014, the BJP bagged 26 seats and the Congress three. Singh's fellow travellers agreed the state essentially has a two-party battle in Congress and BJP with some saying it might be time to change this. "I think more parties like the NCP, Shiv Sena and the Samajwadi Party can test the electoral waters in MP ending this two-party battle," Akash Pradhan from Hoshangabad said. "But it is better to chose when you have only two parties rather than a multi-party clutter," chipped in another passenger who boarded from Dabra Town. First time voter Rituja Jain said she is still to decide who to vote for as there are a number of claims and counter-claims by both the parties. "I have seen Mr Modi's work of five years and the Congress' work in the past at the central level and also in my state. My friends say in general elections you vote for the PM and during assembly polls for the CM. But I think both the MP and the MLA are important for the development of a constituency. I am still undecided, " the 21-year old said. And so the conversation continues, over shared food and cups of tea, for the 21-hour journey that goes through 16 stations in the state before stopping at Chhindwara. Starting everyday from Delhi at noon, the 15-bogey train goes through Gwalior, Bina (Sagar), Vidisha, Bhopal, Itarsi and Betul among other smaller stations, culminating at the largest of the 52 districts of state, Chhindwara. It also halts at four locations in Uttar Pradesh. Deriving its name from a horse-shoe shaped valley in Chhindwara district, the Patalkot express is the only fast train to Chhindwara. It is the preferred option for a lot of passengers as its over 1, 050 km journey connects many vital cities and the train mostly runs on time, said P K Sharma, the travel ticket examiner (TTE) in the train. According to Ajay Kumar, who went right up till Chhindwara, change might be in the offing. “Change is good. I am told by friends and family in other cities that a few turfs of the BJP in the state may be lost this time as people are not satisfied with the Modi government owing to problems they faced during demonetisation and the GST (goods and services tax),” he said. “But, they are also not sure who will deliver -- Congress chief Rahul Gandhi or those from the 'mahagathbandhan',” he added. Discussing the dangers of social media, Pravesh Pandey, an office-goer, said people tend to base their opinion on messages floating around on various platforms, regardless of what the truth might be. "So, I will vote on May 6 in Betul based on who I feel has done good for the country and could so in the future. My single vote is a like a drop in the ocean but then that is what elections are all about," the 43-year-old said. Sanoj Kumar, an attendant on the train, hails from Bihar and said he has done the journey hundreds of times. "The flavour changes with the season. Nowadays, I overhear people talking about elections, Modi, mama (moniker for former MP CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan), Rahul (Gandhi), Mamata (Banerjee) but I don't see campaign happening anywhere. "That could be because I am not able to watch much of television," he said while preparing to fix a problem in the toilet. PTI NES MIN MIN

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