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Madhya Pradesh polls: Will BJP’s lone Muslim candidate avenge her father’s defeat?

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HIGHLIGHTS

Bhopal North has been a Congress bastion since 1998
It is represented by 5-time MLA Arif Aqueel
BJP has fielded Fatima Rasool Siddiqui to taken on him With just five days left for voting, the electoral battle between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the Congress in Madhya Pradesh has reached its climax. For the last 15 years, the BJP has ruled the state with a majority government. However, a victory in the Bhopal North assembly constituency has remained elusive.

Bhopal North has a Congress bastion and it has been by its heavyweight Arif Aqueel since 1990. The political fight this time would be interesting as the BJP’s lone Muslim candidate–Fatima Rasool Siddiqui–will be taking on Aqueel, who had played a key role in the 1993 defeat of her father Rasool Ahmed Siddiqui, a former minister.

Back then, Aqueel had contested from the Bhopal North seat as a Janata Dal candidate and cut into Congress votes. This helped BJP’s Ramesh Sharma aka Guttu Bhaiya sail through. Siddiqui, a two-time MLA from Bhopal North (1980 and 1985), never recovered from the defeat and died of a heart attack in 1997.

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He was very close to Congress stalwart Madhavrao Scindia and Fatima’s social media accounts still have photographs of her with Madhavrao Scindia and his son Jyotiraditya Scindia, who is in the race for the CM’s post within the candidate.

Despite this, when the BJP went around to look for a fresh minority face to take on the five-time Congress MLA in this Muslim-dominated constituency, Fatima answered the call. She was named Bhopal North candidate within hours of taking BJP membership.

As for Arif Aqueel, he has been representing Bhopal North assembly seat since 1998. It has been a Congress citadel thereafter.

Since 1977, Bhopal North has seen nine elections, of which the Congress has won six. The BJP, the Janata Party and Independents have one each.

BJP plays Muslim versus Muslim card

Muslims account for nearly 40 per cent of the electorate in Bhopal North. By projecting Fatima as its lone Muslim candidate in the state, the BJP is hoping to cash in on her father’s votes along with the ones it has been enjoying traditionally.

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Invoking her father’s credentials, Fatima said, “My father was a staunch believer of Hindu-Muslim brotherhood and stood for the Ganga-Jamuni tehzeeb. I have experienced that Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan also believes in the same philosophy. He is secular and is doing good work by taking care of people from all sections of society.”

Narrow gap between winner and loser

Meanwhile, even though the political equation still favours Arif Aqueel, he has never won with a huge margin in any election. As a Congress candidate in the 1998 assembly elections, Arif won by 16,857 votes. In the 2003 assembly elections, he won by 7,708 votes. In 2008, the gap in his victory decreased further and he won the Assembly by just 4,026 votes. After this, Arif’s victory in the 2013 elections increased marginally and he won by 6,664 votes.

This assembly segment faces acute problem of water shortage, traffic mismanagement, disorganised settlement, illegal occupation and poverty. But, regardless of the fact that problems galore in this constituency, Arif Aqueel has been continuously wining elections here since 1998.

More than the issues, the caste and religious factors play key roles in deciding election results.

ALSO WATCH | Should EC take action against Kamal Nath for seeking Muslim votes? https://www.indiatoday.in/elections/story/madhya-pradesh-bhopal-borth-seat-bjp-lone-muslim-candidate-fatima-rasool-siddiqui-against-arif-aqueel-1395165-2018-11-24

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