District BJP president Alok Sharma said to be enjoying the backing of chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, has emerged as a front-runner in the race for party's mayoral candidate.
Sources in the BJP said some sections within the party feel Sharma needs to be accommodated since he is the only leader in his generation in the BJP camp.
Moreover, the party feels that giving the ticket to a leader from the old Bhopal area and ensuring victory for him would strengthen the party in the Bhopal North assembly segment, a seat where the BJP has been witnessing consecutive defeats -- in the 1998, 2003, 2008 and 2013 elections.
The previous BJP government had appointed Rameshwar Sharma and Ramesh Sharma -- both are party leaders from old Bhopal area - as chairpersons of state-owned utilities, hoping that they would accept Alok Sharma's candidature in the 2013 assembly elections from Bhopal North.
However, Alok Sharma declined to contest from Bhopal North and was again in the fray for Bhopal Lok Sabha candidate. The party sprung a surprise by nominating Alok Sanjar as its candidate in the Lok Sabha polls at the behest of former CM Kailash Joshi who was the incumbent MP.
The mayoral election is, in many senses, the last opportunity for the party to accommodate Sharma before the Assembly elections in 2018. Sharma had contested the 2008 assembly elections from Bhopal North and lost to the Congress' Arif Aqueel.
Sharma's claim over the party nomination has not deterred others from trying to get the party nomination. Home minister Babulal Gaur is keen to get his daughter-in-law Krishna Gaur re-nominated for the post of mayor.
The incumbent mayor's claim is based on the credit she has taken for works done under the JNNURM and the approval of metro rail system in Bhopal. However, the likelihood of giving a ticket to a woman candidate in a seat not reserved for women is bleak.
Former MLA Dhruv Narayan, after being denied a ticket in the previous assembly elections after his name cropped up in the Shehla Masood murder case, is also lobbying for a ticket. Sources said he is in contact with Union ministers Rajnath Singh and Narendra Singh Tomar.
Others in the race include Om Yadav and former MLA Ramesh Sharma Guttu Bhaiya. The BJP may take the final call on the candidate in a couple of days even though the last date for filing nominations is January 6.