The BJP on Tuesday drafted several senior cabinet ministers to campaign in favour of Alok Sharma, its mayoral candidate in Bhopal, triggering a whisper campaign that the election would not be a walkover as was being perceived earlier.
The roping in of ministers to shore up votes for Sharma is being hotly debated in political circles. The BJP's use of ministers is in sharp contrast to the complete absence of the Congress leadership from the campaign.
The ministers have been assigned assembly segments in Bhopal and asked to campaign for candidates running for the posts of corporator and Sharma. On Tuesday, rural development minister Gopal Bhargava campaigned in Bairagarh, transport minister Bhupendra Singh in Kolar, PWD minister Sartaj Singh, revenue minister Rampal Singh and energy minister Rajendra Shukla in Govindpura, and finance minister Jayant Malaiya and health minister Narottam Mishra in Narela. The plan was shaped by higher education minister Uma Shankar Gupta, who is in- charge of the BJP's campaign for the Bhopal municipal elections.
"All elections in Bhopal are important for the BJP. The party realizes that when Abha Singh, who is relatively unknown in Bhopal, could give BJP candidate Krishna Gaur a tough time in previous elections," said political analyst Girija Shankar.
"Kailash Mishra, the present Congress candidate, is a local leader with roots in municipal politics. Moreover, the BJP, especially chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, does not ever take any election lightly," he said. Shankar added that the mayoral contest is a prestige issue for Chouhan as Sharma is close to him.
Political observers are drawing parallels between the move in Bhopal and prime minister Narendra Modi's decision to ask MPs to campaign in Delhi for upcoming elections. On Tuesday, cabinet members were scheduled to be in Bhopal for a meeting of the state cabinet.
The BJP decided to use them while they were in Bhopal. The Bhopal unit of the BJP comprises ambitious leaders. Past elections have been lost because of infighting. In fact, Sharma reportedly lost the Vidhan Sabha elections from Bhopal North in 2008.