- There is a buzz that BJP is likely to field a heavyweight from Bhopal
- The candidate could be Shivraj Singh Chouhan
- BJP government in Madhya Pradesh was dislodged by Congress last year
The Congress's surprise move of fielding Digvijaya Singh from the BJP stronghold of Bhopal has set off some quick thinking in the BJP camp. There is a buzz that the party is reforming its strategy and is likely to field a heavyweight to take on the two-time chief minister -- the candidate could even be Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who has an equally stellar record.
Mr Chouhan, whose government was dislodged by the Congress last year after two consecutive terms in power, has entrenched himself in the state since. He has also appointed himself the strongest critic of the Congress, admonishing the party and the government of Kamal Nath at every opportunity.
The two-time chief minister held the Vidisha Lok Sabha constituency for 15 years. After being named the Chief Minister, he shifted to the Budhni constituency, which he still represents. But Sadhvi Pragya Thakur, accused in the 2008 Malegaon blasts case who was later acquitted by the court, has also expressed her willingness to contest against Digvijaya Singh.
The Bhopal seat has been with the BJP for nearly three decades. The last Congress leader to represent it was former President Shankar Dayal Sharma, who won from here in 1984.
From 1989, it was represented in Lok Sabha thrice by the BJP's Sushil Chandra Verma. In 1999, Uma Bharti got elected but had to quit when she was named the Chief Minister of the state.
The sitting lawmaker from Bhopal is Alok Sanjhar.
Before Mr Singh's entry, the BJP was considering Mayor Alok Sharma and the party's state general secretary VD Sharma as probables from the seat.
On record, the BJP maintains that all is well. BJP's spokesperson Rahul Kothari brushed off the Congress move as a "factional struggle". It was done so that after the party loses, "no one can challenge the supremacy of Kamal Nath in the state," Mr Kothari told NDTV.
But privately, leaders concede there is cause for worry. Of the eight assembly segments that comprise the Lok Sabha seat, three are with the Congress.
Digvijay Singh agreed to contest from Bhopal after he was challenged to contest "from the toughest seat" by Chief Minister Kamal Nath. But the Rajya Sabha member said if he has to return to the Lok Sabha fray, his first choice would be Rajgarh, which he represented twice.