Bhopal: The Bhopal parliamentary seat has recorded highest ever turnout in 40 years – a whopping 65.65% – after high-voltage electioneering on both the sides. The turnout was higher by 8% than that in 2014 – which marked the culmination of the so-called Modi wave.
In 2014, Bhopal had recorded 57.79% voting, while it was 44.69% in 2009 general elections. The last time polling crossed 60% was in 1999 when Uma Bharti was BJP’s Bhopal candidate.
The fight between Congress’s senior leader Digvijaya Singh and BJP’s Hindutva hardliner and terror attack-accused Pragya Thakur not only kept the state capital riveted, but also grabbed national headlines ahead of the polling.
It is worth mentioning that neither PM Narendra Modi nor Congress Chief Rahul Gandhi campaigned in Bhopal for the candidates, nor has any other senior member from either party.
Singh campaigned for development, and released a booklet on his vision for Bhopal, while Thakur released her own manifesto for the city towards the fag end of her campaign. But electioneering here was mostly about varying shades of saffron — Pragya calling it a ‘Dharm Yuddh’, saying she was “proud of helping raze Babri Masjid”, and Digvijaya Singh visiting temples and getting the support of hundreds of sadhus led by Computer Baba.
While casting his vote, one of the retired officials, Rajendra Solanki, told NewsClick, “In 70 years of my life, I have never seen Digvijaya Singh as mature as he is now. His campaign was better organised than any candidate.”
There were long queues across the city from as early as 7.10 am. The day temperature was 40.7 degree Celsius, but even in the scorching May afternoon, polling was brisk, and by 1 pm, it had reached an impressive 35%. Bhopal Madhya and Bhopal Uttar were slow to start, but picked up pace in the late afternoon. Rashtiya Swayamsevak Sangh volunteers went from door to door on the polling day, urging people to vote.
Berasia and Sehore assembly segments recorded the highest turnout throughout the day — Sehore 77% and Berasia over 76%. Bhopal North (66.65%), Narela (64.9%) and Huzur (67.6%) assembly areas also registered significant increase in turnout.
Despite unpleasant weather and ongoing Ramadan, Muslims voted in large numbers, as two minority voter-dominated seats, Bhopal North and Bhopal Madhya, recorded 66.65% and 59.55% voter turnout respectively. Bhopal parliamentary constituency has 21 lakh voters.
"It is the toughest fight ever for the Bhopal seat. Even after the polling, no one can say who is winning," said senior journalist Ashutosh Shukla.
In 2014, BJP's Alok Sanjar had won with a margin of more than 3 lakh votes. "It is difficult for the Congress to fill this margin but both the camps are hopeful of victory." Shukla added.
Senior journalist Rakesh Dixit believes that minority votes are a plus point for the Congress. "There are 4.7 lakh minority voters, and they have cast their votes unanimously for the Congress despite the heat and ongoing Ramadan, as the official figures suggest. But the fight is neck and neck."
BJP winning 20 seats, Congress 16: Internal report
Chief Minister Kamal Nath and All India Congress Committee general secretary Jyotiradiya Scindia have been claiming victory from 25 seats, while the BJP leaders including former CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan are saying that the party will win all the seats.
However, BJP’s internal report suggests that the party will win from 20 seats. Congress’ internal report talks about winning 16 seats.
In Madhya Pradesh, out of 29 seats in total, the election for 21 seats has been concluded. Remaining eight seats will go to polls in the last phase of election, on May 19.
The BJP’s report predicts a close contest with Congress in Ratlam, Dhar, Sidhi and Balaghat. Congress is said to be stronger in Chhindwara, Guna, Gwalior and Satna. Here’s what both the parties’ assessments predict:
Winning - Bhopal, Vidisha, Sagar, Rewa, Shahdol, Mandla, Jabalpur, Khajuraho, Tikamgarh, Damoh, Indore, Dewas, Ujjain, Mandsaur, Betul, Hoshangabad, Morena, Bhind, Khandwa and Khargone.
Close contest - Ratlam, Dhar, Sidhi and Balaghat.
Losing - Chhindwara, Guna, Gwalior and Satna.
Winning - Bhopal, Chhindwara, Guna, Gwalior, Morena, Mandla, Balaghat, Satna, Sidhi, Ratlam, Dhar, Dewas, Khajuraho, Rajgarh, Khargone and Indore.
Tough fight - Jabalpur, Damoh, Sagar, Mandsaur, Ujjain, Khandwa and Betul.
Losing - Bhind, Vidisha, Rewa, Hoshangabad, Shahdol and Tikamgarh