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Digvijaya Singh fighting a tough battle in Bhopal against Pragya Thakur

Singh has fought a careful election, maintaining a balance between wooing Hindu voters and courting the Muslim electorate.

, ET Bureau|
May 10, 2019, 11.17 PM IST
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Madhya Pradesh capital, which has about 20.53 lakh voters including 4.5 lakh Muslims, has been held by BJP since 1989.
Bhopal: Former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Digvijaya Singh is fighting one of the toughest battles of his life against Malegaon blast accused Pragya Singh Thakur to regain Bhopal Lok Sabha seat for Congress after 30 years.

Singh has fought a careful election, maintaining a balance between wooing Hindu voters and courting the Muslim electorate. However, a strong Sangh network, an organised BJP camp headed by former chief ministers Uma Bharati and Shivraj Singh Chouhan, and the demographics of Bhopal give Thakur an edge.

The Madhya Pradesh capital, which has about 20.53 lakh voters including 4.5 lakh Muslims, has been held by BJP since 1989. One of the biggest factors working against Singh seems to be his stint as CM from 1993 to 2003 when he had angered government employees.

“The government employees in my locality have an angst against Digvijaya ji,” said Ajay Pillai, a retired government employee who has settled in Bhopal. “A week back, his team requested that he wanted to campaign in our Ayyappa temple but our association refused. We respectfully told him that he can pay his respects here, but he cannot come and campaign.”

Ram Dayal, a cobbler at 10 Number Market, feels it’s a mistake that Congress has fielded Singh “who was the most unpopular CM.” “After 15 years, whatever he had done has been forgotten by the party and now again he gets a ticket,” Dayal said.

In the runup to the election, BJP has played the Hindutva card to the hilt. Thakur had started her campaign with controversial statements on ATS chief Hemant Karkare and Ram Mandir. However, with Chouhan stepping in, a course correction was brought about.

Singh has countered this with numerous temple visits, holding a Maha Yagna by Computer Baba Namdas Tyagi, and seeking blessings from Jain gurus. Every day, Singh’s campaign would begin with a temple visit or blessings by a guru.

And he seems assured of Muslim votes. “I live in Bhim Nagar and the entire area is voting for Digvijaya Singh,” said Shahrukh Ahmed, a first-time voter who runs a juice stall near Vidhan Sabha. He said his entire family had voted for BJP’s Alok Sanjar in 2014.

“But this time our community has decided to support Congress. How can we vote for somebody who supports killing Muslims? Congress holds out promise of development,” Ahmed said.

Out of the eight Assembly segments under Bhopal Lok Sabha seat, Congress won only two in the 2018 elections. The party is banking on the slightly higher voter turnout seen in the first two phases of polling in the state. Congress functionaries feel that a jump in polling in rural areas would favour it.
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