One moment he buries his head to answer a phone call, the next he whispers to a confidant only to return to another call. As aides keep bringing cell phones, P C Sharma has the look of a man overwhelmed by expectations, and fatigue, just few hours before campaigning ends.
‘P C bhai’ to his supporters, the Congress candidate for the prestigious Bhopal seat, hit the campaign trail weeks ago. The BJP delayed announcing its candidate — a low profile, unknown, Alok Sanjar. But the protracted campaign seems to have taken a toll on Sharma, supporter of former chief minister Digvijay Singh.
Sharma is banking on his personal equation with voters, rather than the Congress. Bhopal voted BJP for the third consecutive time in November 2013 assembly elections. First elected as municipal councillor in 1983, the district unit chief claims he is close to the people because he attends birthday parties, marriages and funerals round the year.
Obviously, the Congress did not believe him when it denied him an assembly ticket. It lost seven out of eight assembly segments falling within Bhopal .
However, Sharma is still better placed because Sanjar, who managed the BJP headquarters and was surprised when his name was announced, has to worry more about sabotage than the challenge posed by the Opposition party.
On last day of electioneering, P C bhai was placing a request for film star Nagma to campaign in Bhopal five hours before the deadline. “It will take only an hour and a quarter for her. Maza aayega (it will be fun),’’ the candidate was seen pleading for the last-minute push.
The BJP has put its formidable organisational strength to bring Sanjar to the centrestage. “I had no umeed (hope) that I will be umeedwaar (candidate),’’ Sanjar tells a large rally at Bhopal’s Peer Gate locality.
He also mentions Chouhan’s secular image to neutralise the Narendra Modi factor in Muslim-dominated localities.
Congress feels it stands a better chance in Muslim localities as voters are either likely to not vote or vote for anyone other than the BJP. “Muslim have started voting for the BJP but they don’t prefer Modi,’’ says former councillor Bharati Batham.