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3-min read

Is Pratibha Advani BJP's Answer to Congress Heavyweight Digvijaya Singh in Bhopal?

The Bhopal seat has been reduced to a prestige issue for the BJP, which rides on the support of Hindus and would hate to lose to Digvijaya Singh, whom the party has vigorously accused of minority appeasement in the past.

Vivek Trivedi | News18.com

Updated:April 5, 2019, 2:23 PM IST
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Is Pratibha Advani BJP's Answer to Congress Heavyweight Digvijaya Singh in Bhopal?
File photo of Congress leader Digvijaya Singh.
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Bhopal: As the Lok Sabha elections inches closer, one of the most closely-watched electoral battles of 2019 emerges out of Bhopal, a BJP citadel since 1989. With the Congress meticulously fielding former Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh from here, the BJP, in its desperate attempt to keep the saffron lotus blooming, is now likely to field Pratibha Advani from the constituency.

More than anything else, the Bhopal seat has been reduced to a prestige issue for BJP, which rides on the support of Hindus and in such a case would hate to lose to Singh, whom the party has vigorously accused of minority appeasement in the past.

In the endless list of probable candidates, Pratibha, the daughter of BJP patriarch LK Advani is the latest entrant. The name started doing rounds soon after Advani, who has been denied re-nomination from Gandhinagar, went public airing his views on the ongoing anti-national debate.

In 2014 as well, the BJP high command, on the insistence of the party’s MP unit had offered Advani to contest from Bhopal, who denied the offer saying he want to hold on to Gandhinagar.

However, Pritibha, a successful anchor and YV producer fails to charm BJP’s local unit. “I don’t think there is much credence in the news as she won’t be a match for Singh,” a senior BJP leader told News18. He further explained how the caste equations in the constituency are not in her favour. “Since the population of Sindhis in Bhopal is minimal, at barely a lakh, it is not likely for Pratibha to win many votes.”

Another party leader also affirmed that the party won’t place their bets on a novice like Pratibha, especially when the stakes are really high on the Bhopal seat. Besides, Singh’s candidature is bolstered by the fact that Muslims, who traditionally side with Congress, have a population of around 3.5 lakh in Bhopal.

Congress’ recent performance in the Assembly elections in the state, where the party won three out of the seven seats in Bhopal, is another comforting factor for Singh. Out of the three candidates – Arif Aqueel and Arif Masood – are Muslim MLAs.

However, a senior journalist still remains hopeful about Pratibha’s prospect of being nominated. This, he attributes to the fact, that BJP wishes to placate a sulking Advani – and a ticket to his daughter could ensure that the BJP patriarch is pacified against making stinging remarks about the party.

Interestingly, the matter of candidature had been an easy affair for the saffron party till 2014. However, Congress’ decision to pitch Singh left the party in a tizzy, which has been scrambling for a suitable candidate ever since. Names like sitting MP Alok Sanjar, BJP organisational secretary VD Sharma and Bhopal mayor Alok Sharma, which were once making rounds, faded quickly.

Afterwards, Sadhvi Pragya Bharti, one of the accused in the Malegaon blasts, had challenged Singh. Political observers, however, are of the opinion that BJP is least likely to field Bharti given her contentious past. RSS also wanted to field Uma Bharti from Bhopal, who won the seat in 1999, but the firebrand sadhvi declined the offer.

Bharti, who had stepped down as MP Chief Minister in 2004 following a court case was side-lined and was unhappy with the RSS not extending any support at the time of distress.

Last but not the least, BJP had pinned high hopes on former CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan for contesting against Singh, but the senior leader too, reportedly expressed his unwillingness. Chouhan, soon after losing MP assembly polls, had made it clear that he was not interested in Delhi politics.

The candidature of former union minister Narendra Singh Tomar was also considered, but he was later named from Morena. However, sources suggest that since Tomar is unsure of a win from Morena, he is still planning to either go back to Gwalior or take up the Bhopal challenge.

Meanwhile, the Congress is poking fun at BJP over its indecisiveness about Bhopal. Chief Minister Kamal Nath has time and again said that the BJP is not able to find a candidate and recently had asked the saffron party to float advertisements for finding Bhopal candidate.
| Edited by: Zoya Mateen
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