The BJP in Madhya Pradesh has withheld its nominee for the Bhopal Lok Sabha seat after the Congress formally fielded former Chief Minister Digvijaya Singh. The party has deferred a decision on Gwalior and Indore too.
While the Bharatiya Janata Party has cleared a list of 15 out 29 seats, the Congress is treading cautiously. Apart from Digvijaya Singh, its list of nine also includes three women - Meenakshi Natarajan from Mandsaur, Kavita Singh from Khajuraho and Pramila Singh, a former BJP MLA, from tribal-dominated Shahdol.
The BJP was considering senior RSS worker Vishnu Dutt Sharma for Bhopal, but there were protests from senior members like former Chief Minister Babulal Gaur, former minister Umashankar Gupta and others who sought a local candidate to be fielded instead.
The RSS is said to have been vetting the list at every stage. The current member, Alok Sanjar, is unlikely to be re-nominated considering the resistance from the ranks and possible challenge from Digvijaya Singh.
Former Chief Minister, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who was initially considered for Vidisha may be asked to take on Digvijaya Singh. The RSS has also assessing the claim of Pragya Thakur, the saffron Sadhvi who was recently acquitted of charges in the Malegaon blasts.
The BJP's first list of 15 reflects a big reshuffle. The party has dropped five MPs and shifted Union Minister Narendra Singh Tomar from Gwalior to Morena in anticipation of Congress nominating Jyotiraditya Scindia from Gwalior, instead of Guna which he currently holds.
The dropped MPs include former bureaucrat Bhagirath Prasad who had ditched the Congress to accept the BJP ticket, Anoop Mishra, the nephew of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Chintamani Malviya from Ujjain, Gyan Singh from Shahdol and Jyot Dhurve from Betul, whose certificate as a tribal candidate was found to be forged.
The new faces are Durgadas Uikey from Betul (a choice of RSS) and Amit Firozia, a first-time contestant from Ujjain. Former Union minister Dalbir Singh's daughter Himadri Singh, who quit the Congress last week, is to contest the Shahdol seat.
Like Bhopal, nominations for Indore and Gwalior have become contentious for both parties. The BJP has also been reconsidering the nomination of outgoing Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan following murmurs of protest from the rival faction led by Kailash Vijayvargiya.
Her nomination will also have a bearing on Bhopal where veteran leader Babulal Gaur has staked a claim.
If the 75-plus age barrier is held against one, the other could be kept out too, a party supporter from Indore said.
Digvijaya Singh's nomination from Bhopal has caused flutter among his supporters and detractors alike. His son Jaivardhan tweeted a poem to suggest the party could subject him to severe tests but Digvijaya Singh would happily face the challenges.
Former Leader of Opposition Ajay Singh has suggested that leaders from Gwalior and Chambal (read Jyotiraditya Scindia) should be asked to contest from Indore.
Vijayvargiya has offered to contest against Digvijaya Singh. He says with his own party members keen to defeat him, it would be interesting to take on Digvijaya Singh.