Officially, the BJP has dismissed that Digvijaya Singh could pose any challenge to the party in the constituency.
Bhopal: The Congress' move to nominate party veteran Digvijaya Singh from Bhopal Lok Sabha seat in Madhya Pradesh seems to have prompted the BJP to revisit its strategy to ward off any eventuality and retain its bastion of the last three decades in the high-stake elections.
The BJP's worry stems from the fact that the Congress had won three out of eight assembly segments in Bhopal constituency in the assembly elections held last year. In
remaining five seats, the BJP witnessed a slide in its margin.
Bhopal constituency is spread over eight assembly segments, namely Berasia, Bhopal Uttar, Narela, Bhopal, Dakshin-Paschhim, Bhopal Madhya, Govindpura, Huzur and Sehore.
The Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) has been holding this seat since 1989.
Officially, the BJP has dismissed that Digvijaya Singh could pose any challenge to the party in the constituency. However, if a BJP leader to be believed, the party is working on a "plan B" over selection of candidates.
According to rumours in political circles, former chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan might be in reckoning as a contestant, as Muslim voters in the constituency view him as
a moderate saffron leader.
"I cannot say anything right now. The BJP's central leadership will take a call on the candidate," state BJP president Rakesh Singh told PTI Sunday when he was asked whether Chouhan is in contention.
"He (Chouhan) is a former chief minister. The central leadership will decide whether to field him in Lok Sabha polls or not," the state BJP chief said.
He laughed away Digvijaya Singh as a lightweight. "You all consider him a tough candidate. I was just now telling my friend that Singh is going to lose for sure. He is not that figure who can win elections, but he is a face that can vitiate the atmosphere," he said.
The Congress had last won the Bhopal seat in 1984. Announcing Digvijaya Singh's name Saturday, Chief Minister Kamal Nath said that he had offered Bhopal seat to the former chief minister, who wanted to contest from his home turf Rajgarh.
Meanwhile on Sunday, Rakesh Singh, Chouhan and state BJP organisational secretary Suhas Bhagat went into a huddle in Bhopal, a party leader said. The trio discussed about picking a tough contestant against Digvijaya Singh, according to BJP sources.
What might have prompted the BJP to visit the drawing board is the outcome of the last assembly elections where in the saffron party ceded three assembly seats to the Congress.
Moreover, four lakh out of total 18 lakh voters in the constituency are Muslims, who generally vote for Congress.
The BJP leader said the state election committee had earlier shortlisted Mayor Alok Sharma and party general secretary VD Sharma as probable candidates from Bhopal and had forwarded their names to the central elections committee, which will meet on March 26.
"However, with Digvijaya Singh entering the poll fray, the BJP is working on the plan B, but the final call on the party candidate will be taken by the central leadership of the BJP," he added.
Bhopal Lok Sabha constituency was represented by Shankar Dayal Sharma of Congress in 1971-77 and 1980-1984. Sharma had served as the President of India from 1992 to 1997.
K N Pradhan of Congress had won the seat in 1984 general elections. Since then the party has failed to upstage the BJP from this seat.
Among BJP stalwarts who had represented Bhopal in Lok Sabha is Union minister Uma Bharti who defeated senor Congress leader Suresh Pachouri in 1999 polls. Alok Sanjar is the sitting MP from Bhopal.
Digvijaya Singh's candidature was reportedly pushed by Kamal Nath who had last week said that if Digvijaya wanted to contest the Lok Sabha polls, he should choose the "toughest seat" in the state.
"I had requested Digvijaya Singh that you had been the chief minister for so long, and it doesn't suit you if you say that I will contest from Rajgarh (Digvijay's home turf)," Nath
The chief minister said he had asked Singh to contest from any other seat like Bhopal, Indore, Jabalpur etc. "As Singh told me to take a decision, I have offered him to contest from Bhopal," he had said.
Singh, who had served as the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh between 1993-2003, is currently a member of the Rajya Sabha.
Polls for 29 Lok Sabha seats in Madhya Pradesh will be held in four phases during April 29--May 19 period.