Since late eighties, Bhopal has become a BJP stronghold. First it was Sushil Chandra Verma, a bureaucrat-turn-politician, who won the seat in 1989. He was elected MP three more times in the next decade.
BJP has consistently won the seat since 1989—eight elections in a row. Congress has failed to crack the code for victory as far as the Bhopal constituency is concerned.
In the 2014 election, BJP fielded Alok Sanjar, a surprise choice, as he was not considered to be a heavyweight (among BJP leaders in Bhopal). Still, he defeated Congress’ PC Sharma, who was comparatively more popular in Bhopal, by a margin of over 3.70 lakh votes.
In the first election that was held before reorganization of Madhya Pradesh, Congress leader Saeedullah Khan Razmi had won from Bhopal (Sehore) seat.
In 1957, Maimoona Sultan was elected from Bhopal on Congress ticket. She had defeated Hindu Mahasabha (HMS) candidate Hardayal Devgan by a margin of around 25,000 votes.
Again in 1962, Maimoona Sultan was fielded and she defeated HMS’ Om Prakash by a lesser margin. However, in 1967, Jan Sangh got the taste of victory on this seat. Its candidate Jagannath Rao Joshi had defeated Maimoona Sultan by over 43,000 votes.
Dr Shankar Dayal Sharma contested on Congress ticket from Bhopal in 1971. He defeated Jan Sangh’s candidate Bhanu Prakash Singh by a margin of well over 31,000 votes.
But in 1977, Dr Sharma lost. During Janata party wave, Arif Baig won from the seat on Lok Dal ticket, defeating Dr Sharma. The last occasion when Congress won Bhopal seat was in 1984.
KN Pradhan had defeated BJP’s Laxminarayan Sharma by a huge margin of 1.28 lakh votes . Since then, BJP has always won the seat, and with big margins. In the year 1989, Sushil Chandra Verma won from Bhopal, defeating Pradhan by 1.03 lakh votes.
This was the year when BSP had shown its clout in Madhya Pradesh for the first time as its candidate Abdul Rauf had got nearly 1 lakh votes on Bhopal seat, resulting in Pradhan’s loss.
In 1991, Verma defeated Mansur Ali Khan Pataudi, the grandson of last Nawab of Bhopal, Hamidullah Khan. It was a high-voltage contest. But Verma won easily. He got 3.07 lakh votes while Pataudi got 2.06 lakh votes.
In 1996, Congress fielded Kailash Kundal who lost to BJP’s Sushil Chandra Verma by a huge margin again. Verma was elected for the fourth successive term in 1998 when he defeated Arif Baig, who had joined Congress then, by over 1.90 lakh votes.
By now, Bhopal was being seen as a safe seat for BJP and senior leaders preferred to contest from here.
As the seat has a large Muslim population, Congress often fielded Muslim candidates but felt that this didn’t yield results because of polarization.
However, later it realised that even fielding candidate from majority community didn’t work as BJP had a strong hold on voters in this predominantly urban seat.
In 1999, Uma Bharti contested from Bhopal and defeated Suresh Pachouri. She got over 5.37 lakh votes compared to Pachouri’s 3.69 lakh.
In 2004, the veteran BJP leader Kailash Joshi was fielded who defeated Congress’ Syed Sajid Ali by over 3 lakh votes.
Congress kept on changing candidates but failed to win the seat. In 2009, Congress’ Surendra Singh Thakur lost to Kailash Joshi.
In 2014, Alok Sanjar (BJP) defeated PC Sharma. Once again Congress seem clueless as to who can give a good fight to BJP on this seat. And within BJP, senior leaders who are unsure of victory elsewhere, wish to contest from here.