Members of Digvijaya Singh’s team are engaged in media monitoring, booth management and party worker coordination.

 

New Delhi: Opposite the majestic Minto Hall in Bhopal, which earlier housed the Legislative Assembly building till 1996, a “coordination centre” has been set up in a house where volunteers and close aides of former Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh monitor and coordinate his election campaign for the prestigious Bhopal seat.

This coordination room has been set up in the basement of an unassuming house where about 20 members of Digvijaya’s team are engaged in media monitoring, booth management, party worker coordination and helping him to campaign in eight Assembly segments that constitute the Bhopal Lok Sabha seats.

Bhopal-based Congressmen recall that this is for the first time that a leader at the individual level has set up such an arrangement to manage his campaign.

Anshul Trivedi, who is the youngest member of the team and a close aide of Singh, said, “Old school politics is being run in a systematic way. We are engaged in campaign coordination, which includes collaborating with booth-level workers, addressing their needs, issuing directions, taking feedback from voters and acting on them. A team also looks after the queries of media and monitors the news channels and newspapers religiously to keep an eye on relevant news.”

The Bhopal seat, which the Congress has not won for more than three decades now, is considered to be one of the three BJP seats in the state (the other two being the neighbouring Vidisha and Indore seats) and it is because of this hard task at hand that Singh decided to set up an exclusive centre to coordinate his campaign.

The Diggy campaign coordinating room is acting as the point centre for the party’s campaign for Bhopal with every strategy and decision that is being devised by Singh being executed and passed to the workers and functionaries from it.

“The Pradesh Congress Committee office in Bhopal is the central place for all the 29 Lok Sabha seats of the state and hence it would not have been proper to restrict it to just one centre to coordinate election management for the Bhopal seat. The members sitting there (in Singh’s office) are also the workers of the Congress and everything is being done in close coordination with the party workers and functionaries sitting at the Congress office in Shivaji Nagar,” a party functionary said while explaining the reason behind a separate war room for Bhopal.

According to Trivedi, similar but smaller coordination centres have also been set up in all the eight Assembly segments of Bhopal. “Bhopal is a huge constituency having a population of more than 18 lakh. This is for the first time in recent years that Congress workers truly believe that they are in a position to wrest Bhopal from the Bharatiya Janata Party with Singh contesting. We do not want anything to be left to chance and hence every minute detail related to campaigning is being taken care of,” Trivedi said.

Bhopal-based political observers feel that even the BJP is worried over Singh contesting from Bhopal. Despite Singh being announced as the party candidate on 23 March, the BJP is still to announce its candidate’s name. “They are finding it difficult to find a suitable name who is willing to contest against Singh. Everyone knows that the party wants Shivraj Singh Chouhan to contest from Bhopal, but he is reluctant to do so as he fears that if he loses the election, it will seriously dent his career, and, on other hand, even if he wins the seat, he will not get any of the top four Cabinet ministries in case the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) comes back to power at the Centre,” a Bhopal-based bureaucrat, who is known for his proximity to both Singh and Chouhan, said. Bhopal goes to poll on 12 May in the sixth and second last phase of the polls. Singh, however, is facing a lot of challenges as a large section of government employees and their relatives are against him for his “anti-employee” stance which he was known for when he was the Chief Minister from 1993-2003. In this period, close to 28,000 daily wage employees were sacked.

Singh, on his part, has apologised for the decisions that he took in the past, but even his close supporters are not sure that whether the apology that has come after 15 years will be able to placate the voters.

 

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