BHOPAL: Former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh will be the Congress candidate from Bhopal Lok Sabha seat, which has been a BJP bastion since 1989.
The MP Chief Minister and State Congress Committee chief Kamal Nath confirmed on Saturday that Singh will contest from Bhopal, which goes to poll in the sixth phase (third phase of MP) on May 12 along with seven other seats of Gwalior-Chambal and Central MP.
“Digvijaya Singh has been a state party president and state’s CM for many years, but still he wanted to contest from Rajgarh seat (his home constituency). It doesn’t befit his persona and political experience. I instead requested and offered him to consider contesting from any of three tough seats, Bhopal, Indore or Jabalpur,” said Nath while interacting with journalists in Bhopal on Saturday.
“Digvijaya took his time and thought over my request, but later asked me, where should he contest from. I told him that he should contest from Bhopal, which he has agreed to,” said Nath.
“Now you have a strong candidate from Bhopal, we should cooperate with him,” said Nath amid a bout of laughter at the post Holi lunch with journalists.
When queried as to whether Singh was happy over contesting from Bhopal, Nath said, “you should ask him about it, but I’m happy with it.”
However, when queried by journalists about when the final list of the remaining 28 candidates for MP will be declared, Nath smiled saying, “I’ve the list in my pocket.”
However, as per key sources in the state Congress, most of the candidates for the remaining 28 seats will be declared within a day or two.
Aged 72, Singh, who was the MP CM from 1993 to 2003 had reportedly taken self-imposed exile from electoral politics after the Congress lost the 2003 assembly polls in MP to Uma Bharti-led BJP.
Singh has contested three Lok Sabha polls so far from Rajgarh seat of Central MP, winning in 1984 and 1991, but losing to BJP’s Pyarelal Khandelwal in 1989.
His brother Laxman Singh too has represented Rajgarh seat four times, including 2004 as a BJP MP.
The Rajgarh seat houses Singh family’s pocket-borough, the Raghogarh assembly seat, which is presently represented by Singh’s MP minister son Jaivardhan Singh.
The Bhopal seat, on the other hand, has been a BJP bastion since 1989 and the notable winners from the seat, include Sushil Chandra Verma (1989, 1991, 1996 and 1998) ex-CM Uma Bharti (1999), ex-CM Kailash Joshi (2004 and 2009).
The same seat was won by Congress stalwart Shankar Dayal Sharma (who became India’s Ninth President in 1992) in 1971 and 1980. KN Pradhan was the last Congressman to win the seat in 1984.
Presently, out of the eight assembly segments of Bhopal and Sehore district that form Bhopal Lok Sabha constituency, five are represented by BJP legislators, while three were won by Congress, which include old Digvijaya Singh’s confidants, PC Sharma and Arif Aqeel (both cabinet ministers in Kamal Nath government).
Importantly, political watchers were keenly eyeing developments about which seat will Singh contest Lok Sabha polls from.
The CM had recently said in Chhindwara that he personally didn’t want Singh to contest from any safe seat but instead wished that Singh fought from any of the seats, which the Congress hasn’t won for long.
Nath’s standpoint was endorsed by former union minister and Guna MP Jyotiraditya Scindia, who too had said that senior leaders should contest from tough seats.
Singh had subsequently tweeted saying, “I’m habitual of taking up challenges, but the final decision about which seat I’ll contest from will be taken by my leader and Congress president Rahul Gandhi.”
While the MP CM has announced Singh’s name from Bhopal (presently represented by BJP’s Alok Sanjar), it remains to be seen who will be fielded by BJP from the seat.
Several names have been doing rounds of BJP circles, including present MP Alok Sanjar, Bhopal mayor Alok Sharma, state party general secretary VD Sharma, ex-MLA Dhruv Narayan Singh and ex-MLA and former MP minister Umashankar Gupta.
But now following the new development, some other names, including ex-CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan, former CM and home minister Babulal Gaur and even Malegaon blast accused firebrand saffron leader Pragya Singh Thakur have started doing rounds of BJP circles as well as social media.