BHOPAL: Bhopal, the city of lakes and a saffron citadel for three decades, is bracing up for a gripping electoral duel between Congress veteran Digvijaya Singh and BJP’s rookie poster woman for Hindutva, Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur.
While Singh is banking on his poll management acumen, the mainstay of Thakur’s campaign is her emotional outreach. Singh’s campaign managers are confident that “Diggi Raja” has laid a formidable siege to the saffron citadel, with his followers from across the state camping in the city to mark out the BJP. The saffron outfit, in contrast, has unleashed all arsenals at disposal to blunt the Congress campaign.
Political observers in the city noted that Singh is a poll veteran and started early by mobilising his followers during his Narmada Yatra before last year’s Assembly elections in the State. They are now manning each of the polling booths in the constituency. Yet, they added, Bhopal is also a test case of Hindu-Muslim polarisation, which has ensured the saffron victory march since 1989.
With Thakur in the fray and the BJP thrusting “the conspiracy of Hindu terrorism hatched by the Congress” on the centre stage of electioneering, top guns of the party are once again counting on sharp polarisation. Besides, women are seen rallying behind Thakur, apparently in sympathy for the alleged atrocities she faced during her incarceration in connection with the Malegaon terror blast case.
“Women are holding a door-to-door campaign in favour of Thakur. They sport Pragya’s headgear in solidarity as well. They’re distributing leaflets during busy traffic, carrying details of ‘conspiracy’ behind Hindu terrorism, besides India’s surgical strike an airstrike in the wake of Uri and Pulwama terror attacks, respectively,” said Kavita Singh, a volunteer in the city.
Singh, 72, who’s a Rajya Sabha MP, is working on caste groups to build on the gains in the parliamentary constituency made during last year’s Assembly polls. The Congress had won four out of eight Assembly seats falling under Bhopal LS constituency. The Congress veteran and former Madhya Pradesh chief minister was asked by current CM Kamal Nath to choose a “tough” seat to contest, with options of Indore or Bhopal. With over 4 lakh Muslim voters in the Bhopal, Singh is counting on aggressive minority polling to boost his chances.
“People here are least bothered about Singh and Thakur. The principal rallying issue here is to back PM Narendra Modi. People are also miffed at the Nath government for not fulfilling promises made during Assembly elections,” said Rahul Patel, whose parents had migrated to the city from UP. Though Bhopal ranks high in Centre’s rankings on cleanliness, the city is grappling with lakes, its lifeline, drying up. Thakur, speaking to this newspaper, vowed to work for the revival of lakes, besides empowerment of women.
Singh’s bait on taking on the BJP in its citadel is noted by political observers as a well-calculated attempt to weaken the saffron grip in MP with the assessment that people are growing tired with the politics of Hindutva. The BJP, on the other hand, is taking Bhopal electoral duel as a challenge to outclass the Congress party’s soft Hindutva plank.