When the Congress called a statewide protest on power crisis two days ago, most of the party’s senior leaders were present at the demonstration, except for lone Congress MLA from Bhopal, Arif Aqueel.
Absence of Aqueel, a mass leader and a five-time MLA from the prestigious Bhopal North, has raised eyebrows among the party functionaries. Despite the fact that Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) president Arun Yadav led the march towards chief minister’s residence, Aqueel still chose to ignore the protest, which was barely a few kilometers from his constituency and residence.
Party leaders privately say that if Aqueel joins a protest, he can bring not hundreds, but thousands of his supporters within a short notice.
While Aqueel’s absence was marked, party leaders avoid commenting on the issue, especially because the Bhopal North MLA is among the rarest of rare leaders who get elected despite any wave. He has been winning consistently since 1990, except once. In fact, in 2013 Assembly elections, the BJP leadership had given CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan the task to ensure victory at Bhopal North but Aqueel won.
"Arif bhai stays in his constituency. He doesn’t like other party leaders to step into his domain, and also avoids events in areas outside his constituency," says a senior party functionary on condition of anonymity.
When Aqueel was asked why he skipped the protest, the five-time legislator recited the Urdu couplet: "Kuchh to majburiyan rahi hongi, yun koi bewafa nahi hota." He refused to comment beyond it.
District Congress Committee (DCC) president PC Sharma said the party has noted Aqueel’s absence. "PCC chief Arun Yadav has taken cognisance of the absence of Aqueel and some other corporators who didn’t attend the protest," Sharma said. "The party is warning them that if they again remain absent, the party would take action," Sharma added.