For the BJP, elections to the Bhopal Municipal Corporation (BMC) are not only about ensuring victory for the party as they will have an important bearing on the future of several senior leaders of the party.
Several BJP heavyweights of Bhopal, including home minister Babulal Gaur, his daughter-in-law and former mayor Krishna Gaur, higher education minister Uma Shankar Gupta, MLAs Surendranath Singh, Rameshwar Sharma and Vishwas Sarang and Lok Sabha MP Alok Sanjar, have a stake in the polls as far as their political future is concerned.
Elections to the BMC, which has 85 wards, are scheduled for January 31. Sources in the BJP said the post of corporator – though seemingly small – has importance as it has been the launch pad for many political careers.
Most top BJP leaders from Bhopal, except Gaur and his daughter-in-law, were elected corporators in elections in the mid-1990s and owe their nomination to the Vidhan Sabha to the experience they gained as corporators. Political analyst Girija Shankar said the politics of Bhopal has had special significance within the BJP for a long time.
"Every big leader of the BJP or the erstwhile Jan Sangh, irrespective of whichever part of the state they came from, always had a foot in the politics of Bhopal as the way to politics in Delhi was through Bhopal," Shankar said.
"Chief minister too continues to follow the trend. By ensuring a MLA ticket for Rameshwar Sharma and Surendranath Singh in previous assembly polls, the nomination of Alok Sanjar in previous Lok Sabha polls and nomination of Alok Sharma as a mayoral candidate, he has changed the balance of power in BJP politics in Bhopal against Babulal Gaur and Kailash Sarang, who were from the old guard," he said.
Underlining the significance of civic posts in Bhopal politics, all MLAs from the city have ensured that they have a say in the distribution of tickets for corporators. With the exception of Tulsi Jhijhotiya from ward 58, who was given a ticket at the insistence of the organisation, the MLAs made sure they decided the candidates from their areas.
Govindpura assembly segment – represented by Gaur for about 40 years – is the epicentre of BJP politics. Sources in the party a number of BJP leaders are eyeing the seat for themselves as Gaur is unlikely to contest the 2018 assembly elections.
Sources in the party said politics around the posts of corporators will not end with the distribution of tickets. "Some of those who got tickets would be made to lose as well to ensure that they have no claim on any future party ticket," said a leader at the state BJP headquarters on condition of anonymity.