Bhopal: The Congress announced a list of nine candidates including former chief minister of Madhya Pradesh Digvijaya Singh, who has been nominated from Bhopal on Saturday night.
The list includes three women including Meenakshi Natarajan, a close aide of Congress president Rahul Gandhi, from Mandsaur, Kavita Singh from Khajuraho and Pramila Singh, the former BJP MLA, from tribal-dominated Shahdol.
Pramila, wife of former Umaria district collector Amarpal Singh, had deserted BJP after she was denied a ticket ahead of the assembly polls and joined the Congress. Her candidature was cleared after Congress’ 2016 bypoll candidate Himadri Singh switched over to the BJP.
Himadri, too, found her name in the first BJP list for MP, making it an all women competition in Shahdol parliamentary seat. The Congress seems to have handpicked Pramila Singh even before Himadri switched loyalties as Singh’s husband was transferred presumably to avoid code of conduct issues once Pramila was named a Congress nominee.
Meanwhile, Digvijaya Singh’s nomination from Bhopal has caused a flutter and is being touted as a move to wrest prestigious Bhopal seat from BJP which is holding on to it since 1989. Besides, it’s also being seen as a political test for Singh who is known to be a shrewd politician and in the past had decimated his opponents in and outside Congress.
Therefore, by fielding Singh from Bhopal the Congress has put him in a tricky situation as during his tenure as a CM, he had severed relations with government staff and the BJP also holds four out of seven assembly seats in Bhopal. Besides, it was Singh's political acumen who had bridged the 6-1 tally of assembly seats in favour of the BJP in 2013 to 4-3 in 2018.
Further, Singh also has “friends” in the BJP including former CM Babulal Gaur who was quick to withdraw his claim for a ticket from Bhopal on Friday, a day before the announcement of Singh’s candidature from the state capital.
Singh, according to sources, wanted to contest either from home turf Raghogarh or Indore, where he started his early life. However, the party avoided his nomination from Indore as even his close aides backtracked to extend support. However, it is CM Kamal Nath who is believed to have put Singh on a sticky wicket and it could be a make or break situation for Singh.
In Hoshangabad, the Congress had tossed up a surprise while naming Shailendra Diwan, an OBC face and son form minister from Digvijay Singh cabinet Chandrabhan Singh Diwan. Name of former BJP leader and ex-union minister Sartaj Singh was also in contention for a Congress ticket.
The Congress party though avoided naming candidates from the two seats it held in 2014—Guna and Chhindwara, suggesting that some surprise was in store for the two seats. Scindia, the Guna MP, is said to be shifting base to some other seat while CM Kamal Nath would vacate the seat for contesting assembly poll. Scindia’s wife Priyadarshini Raje could be fielded from safe seat Guna while Scindia could opt for Gwalior or some other seat, said sources.