Ashish Mani Tiwari | Apr 20, 2019 | 6 min read
By Ashish Mani Tiwari
“I have urged Digivijaya Singh to contest from one of the toughest seats of states. There are 2-3-4 seats from where we have not won elections since 30-35 years" said Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Kamal Nath at Chhindwara in March 2019. After that, Digvijaya Singh once again captured the limelight in state politics after his famous Narmada Yatra in 2018.
Bhopal is one of the most vital constituencies for Congress in the Lok Sabha elections this year and Kamal Nath’s decision to field political stalwart and former Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh from Bhopal has given rise to concern in the state unit of Bharatiya Janata Party. But Congress will have its own share of challenges to deal with. The last time that Congress had managed to win from Bhopal was in the 1985 Lok Sabha elections and the candidate was KN Pradhan. Since 1989, the BJP has won the seat every time. However, following the announcement of Digvijaya Singh’s candidature, Bharatiya Janata party has not announced its candidate till now and this gives Congress an opportunity to gain a victory in central Madhya Pradesh.
Early campaigning, pro-Muslim image and grassroot support, an advantage for Digvijaya Singh
Out of the eight assembly constituencies of Bhopal, three are held by Congress MLAs. Bhopal Madhya is held by Arif Masood, Bhopal Uttar elected Arif Aqueel as their representative and PC Sharma won the Bhopal Dakshin-Paschim seat. In the Bhopal Lok Sabha seat, Muslim voters play a crucial role and Digvijaya Singh’s pro-Muslim image could work in his favour in the upcoming elections. Out of the 20 lakh voters in the constituency, nearly five lakh are Muslim voters. To woo the Muslim voters, Digvijaya Singh also visited the famous Raisen dargah on March 28 this year, which became a topic of debate in the political circles of Madhya Pradesh. Also before projecting Digvijaya Singh for Bhopal, both the Muslim MLAs Arif Masood and Arif Aqueel were taken in confidence over his candidature.
Experts say that even after being a citadel of BJP for the last thirty years, Bhopal constituency has become a tough job for saffron forces this year as the party is not able to find a face against Digvijaya Singh. On the other hand, Congress party workers have already started campaigning for Digvijaya Singh and a war room has already been constructed in Bhopal’s Malviya Nagar. Experts, who were part of Kanhaiya Kumar’s campaign at JNU in 2015, are looking after the whole campaigning process. Their main aim is to disseminate the Congress ideology among the youth. During the 2018 Madhya Pradesh assembly elections, Digvijaya Singh was the in-charge of the coordination committee of Congress in the state, where he inducted many former grassroots level workers, who had left during Arun Yadav’s stint as state president of Madhya Pradesh Congress Committee, back into the party.
A Congress worker, who did not wish to be named, states, “Digvijaya Singh has already spoken to us and has urged us to work on the lines of ‘Ghar ka pakka, jaat ka pakka and nare ka pakka’ (True to home, true to caste, true to slogan). Slogans for road shows and campaigns have also been decided including Jai Sonia ji and Jai Rahul Ji”.
Speaking on the candidature of Digvijaya Singh, Ajay Dubey, a Bhopal-based political commentator, says, “First of all I would like to tell you that it’s not a complete walkover for Congress. The BJP has still not projected a candidate from Bhopal. However, Digvijaya Singh is a mass leader in Bhopal and has also initiated campaigning in the constituency with his professional team”.
Differences delaying candidate selection
Madhya Pradesh Bharatiya Janata Party headed by Rakesh Singh is in a tussle with several contenders for the Bhopal seat. According to sources, Bhopal leaders are pushing for a local leader but the central leadership is looking for a heavyweight to pitch against Digvijaya Singh.
Before the announcement of Digivijaya Singh’s candidature, BJP had almost finalized Bhopal mayor Alok Sharma as their candidate, but the equations have changed drastically since then. Sitting MP, Alok Sanjar is a local leader, however, senior party leaders are not willing to project him again, as he is not as well known as Digvijaya Singh in Bhopal. But being a close aide of former Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Sanjar could get a last-minute entry.
According to BJP sources, the party high command is deciding between former Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Union Minister Uma Bharti. During a press conference at BJP headquarters in New Delhi, Shivraj Singh, with regards to his candidature from Bhopal LS seat, said, “I can’t say that I will not contest the election at all, how can I take a decision like that on my own?”
Talking about the delay in selection of the candidate for Bhopal, Satish Upadhaya, BJP leader and Lok Sabha in-charge of the state, reveals, “As elections are in the month of May in Bhopal, we have time. It’s a part of our strategy and the party will select the candidate gradually.”
Speaking on the lines of picking a local candidate or a high-profile candidate for the seat, Upadhaya says, “Every politician wants to fight elections, however, the party will decide and we are giving our 100 percent to do well in the elections.”
A former MLA of Samajwadi Party from Multai constituency in Betul district, Dr Sunilam says, “Definitely the Congress has got a massive boost in Madhya Pradesh after the announcement of Digvijaya Singh and he is mass figure in the entire state, but if BJP projects either Shivraj Singh Chouhan or Uma Bharti, it will be a neck-to-neck contest in Bhopal”.
Talking about Digvijay Singh’s candidature from Bhopal, Shobha Oza, Madhya Pradesh Congress spokesperson, says,“ First of all Digvijaya Singh’s candidature will make an impact across the state for the party among all voters, also the Congress would like to challenge former CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan to contest from Bhopal against Singh, and the voters will reveal the actual truth behind BJP's fifteen years of regime in the state”.
Poll data of Bhopal constituency shows that in the last three Lok Sabha elections BJP has taken a lead with a big margin against Congress.
BJP Voting Percentage
Congress Voting Percentage
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