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Digvijaya Singh seeks to end BJP's dominance in Bhopal, but faces tough fight from Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur

Bhopal: Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath had said at Chhindwara in March, “I have urged Digvijaya Singh to contest from one of the toughest seats. There are some seats from where we have not won elections for 30 to 35 years." After this, Singh once again came into the limelight in state politics.

Bhopal is one of the most vital constituencies for the Congress in the Lok Sabha election this year. Kamal Nath’s decision to field political stalwart and former chief minister Digvijaya Singh from this constituency has given rise to concern in the state unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party. But the Congress has its own share of challenges to deal with. The last time that the Congress had managed to win from Bhopal was in the 1985 Lok Sabha election, and the candidate was KN Pradhan. Since 1989, the BJP has won the seat every time. However, the announcement by the BJP of Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur's candidature will make the battle of Bhopal all the more interesting.

In the past three elections, the BJP defeated the Congress by a large margin.

 Digvijaya Singh seeks to end BJPs dominance in Bhopal, but faces tough fight from Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur

Digvijaya Singh greets supporters after filing his nomination papers from Bhopal. Twitter/@digvijaya_28

Early campaigning, pro-Muslim image and grassroots 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 its representative, and PC Sharma won the Bhopal Dakshin-Paschim seat. In the Bhopal Lok Sabha seat, Muslim voters play a crucial role, and Singh’s pro-Muslim image could work in his favour. Out of the 20 lakh voters in the constituency, nearly five lakh are Muslim voters. To woo them, Singh visited the famous Raisen Dargah on 28 March. The visit became a topic of debate in the political circles of Madhya Pradesh.

Before the Congress projected Digvijaya Singh as its candidate, the party took both Masood and Aqeel into confidence.

Congress workers have already started campaigning for Singh, and a war room has been constructed in Bhopal’s Malviya Nagar.

During the 2018 Madhya Pradesh Assembly election, Singh was in charge of the co-ordination committee of the Congress in the state, where he inducted many former grassroot-level workers who had left during Arun Yadav’s stint as president of the 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 aur naare 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 Singh, Ajay Dubey, a Bhopal-based political commentator, said, “Singh is a mass leader in Bhopal, and has also initiated campaigning in the constituency with his professional team”.

Shobha Oza, Madhya Pradesh Congress spokesperson, said, “Singh’s candidature will make an impact across the state for the party among all voters. The voters will reveal the truth behind the BJP's fifteen-year rule in the state”.

Singh vs Singh  will be tough battle for Digvijaya

Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur, who was arrested in the 2008 Malegaon blast case, formally joined the BJP on Wednesday in Bhopal. The saffron party has now named her as its candidate from the constituency.

Thakur enjoys support from various other Hindu groups of the state, including the RSS.

According to BJP sources, incumbent MP of Bhopal Alok Sanjar, along with Shivraj Singh Chouhan and many others, unanimously proposed Thakur's name. Experts say that Thakur's aggressive politics has made her a known face in the whole of Madhya Pradesh. It is evident that the BJP has much stronger grassroots-level support than the Congress, as the latter is currently building its base in Bhopal.

Speaking to the media in Bhopal, Thakur expressed confidence about winning Bhopal, and said that BJP workers are highly motivated for the electoral battle.

Differences delayed BJP's candidate selection

The Madhya Pradesh Bharatiya Janata Party, headed by Rakesh Singh, had to decide between several contenders for the Bhopal seat. According to sources, Bhopal leaders were pushing for a local leader, but the central leadership wanted a heavyweight candidate against Digvijaya Singh.

(The author is a New Delhi-based freelance writer and a member of 101Reporters.com)

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Updated Date: Apr 20, 2019 16:45:35 IST