There were reports that Thakur wasn’t receiving support in her campaign.
New Delhi: Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah had to intervene personally in Bhopal through the party’s National General Secretary (Organisation) Ramlal, after getting reports that the local leadership was not working as efficiently as it should for the election campaign of Pragya Singh Thakur, the party’s candidate from the Bhopal Lok Sabha seat.
The 49-year-old Thakur, who is an accused in the Malegaon blast case and is presently out on bail, was declared as the party’s candidate on 17 April, just hours after she formally joined the party, giving her less than 25 days to campaign.
A Bhopal-based party functionary said: “There were many local claimants to the seat of Bhopal like Krishna Gaur, Rameshwar Sharma, Alok Sharma, Vishwas Sarang, who were trying for a long time to get the party ticket. So, it is natural that they were disappointed when they did not get the ticket and that was visible when Pragya SinghThakur started her campaign. She was receiving no support from the local leaders. This (local leaders not supporting Thakur) was shared with the party high command after which it was conveyed by the party central leadership to the state leadership that if the party performs badly in their respective area of influences in Bhopal, they will have to answer for it after 23 May. Things have greatly improved after that, something which can be easily compared with the quantity and quality of her campaigning before and after 5 May.”
The Congress, which last won the seat in 1984, has fielded former Chief Minister and present Rajya Sabha member, Digvijaya Singh, who was announced as the party’s candidate on 23 March, thereby giving him almost 50 days to execute his campaign with Bhopal going to polls on 12 May. If the 72-year-old Singh loses the election, this is likely to be the end of his political journey. His Rajya Sabha tenure ends next year.
How much importance the BJP is giving to Bhopal can be gauged from the fact that Amit Shah also did a rally in Bhopal on 8 May, just four days before the election, to galvanise voters and party workers for Thakur, which her supporters have stated was done as a last minute push and to remind the local leaders that they cannot take Thakur’s campaign lightly.
“Bhopal has become a tough seat; Singh is the only candidate who can win on a Congress ticket from here, plus he also has the advantage of having a state government that is supporting him, his old network is still very strong and he is doing at least 20-25 public rallies every day for the last one-and-a-half month. The BJP leadership has realised that they cannot take Bhopal lightly and, hence Amit Shah is personally monitoring everything,” the functionary quoted above said.
Party sources accepted that Thakur, who is new to Bhopal, unlike Singh, who knows the capital like the back of his hand, will be needing every possible help from local Bhopal-based leaders if she has to keep the seat with the BJP.
Delhi-based BJP leaders said that she was summoned to Delhi in the last week of March (23 March), where her name was formally deliberated upon as one of the possible candidates. The Bhopal Lok Sabha seat is composed of eight Assembly seats out of which three are with Congress, while five are with BJP—Berasia (Vishnu Khatri), Govindpura (Krishna Gaur), Huzur (Rameshwar Sharma), Narela (Vishwas Sarang) and Sehore (Sudesh Rai). Out of these five, Gaur, Sharma and Sarang were trying for the Lok Sabha seat.
Even former Chief Minister and former Lok Sabha MP from Bhopal, Uma Bharti, while stating that she was not in the running to contest from Bhopal, on 15 April had stated that Alok Sanjar (the sitting MP), Krishna Gaur, Vishwa Sarang, Rameshwar Sharma, Shailendra Sharma, Alok Sharma (Mayor of Bhopal), Bhagwan Das Sabnani, all who were tipped as possible contenders, were enough to defeat Digvijaya Singh.
A Bhopal-based political observer said: “Amit Shah’s warning and post 23 May scenarios are making an impact for Thakur now.”