After facing defeat in three assembly segments in the 2018 polls, the party is not ready to take any chances. BJP strategists are also aware of the fact that the margin between BJP and Congress, all eight assembly segments taken together, dropped to less than 1 lakh in 2018 — only the second time since 1989.
BJP puts up a brave face. BJP national vice-president Prabhat Jha told TOI, “The challenge is for Digvijaya Singh to win from Bhopal, as even Congress knows that he cannot win. This is a Congress factional struggle and BJP will fight with its full strength.”
Privately, however, BJP leaders admit it is a cause of concern. “The entire state will be influenced by Digvijaya Singh’s candidature from Bhopal. The media is based in the city, and he will be covered from morning till night,” a senior BJP leader said.
The BJP’s panel of probable candidates for the seat at present has two names: Bhopal mayor Alok Sharma and state BJP general secretary VD Sharma.
But the buzz is that former CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan may be fielded to take on Digvijaya.
In 1999, Union minister Uma Bharti had contested from Bhopal and defeated former Union minister Suresh Pachauri by a margin of 1,68,864 votes. Four years later, Bharti as chief ministerial candidate for BJP in 2003 assembly election reduced the Digvijaya Singh Congress government to just a 38-member opposition in a House of 230. Though Bharti has expressed her desire not to contest the Lok Sabha polls, her name was unexpectedly being discussed in BJP circles on Saturday evening.
Sources in BJP said that its greatest concern is the 4.5 lakh minority votes in the constituency which is likely to go with Congress. Out of the eight assembly seats, three are with the Congress – Bhopal (North), Bhopal (Central) and Bhopal (South-West). Two of these seats are represented by ministers who are Digvijaya aides – PC Sharma and Arif Aqueel. BJP is also alarmed that some of its influential but disgruntled leaders, like former CM Babulal Gaur are known to be close to Singh.