Bhopal, Nov 23: In an array of 97 candidates from seven assembly constituencies in Bhopal district, former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Babulal Gaur stands tall in his endeavour to enter the portals of the Vidhan Sabha for the ninth time in a row.
The presence of Mayor Sunil Sood, three of his predecessors, ex-minister Arif Aqueel and former chief minister late Govind Narain Singh's son Dhruv Narain make the campaign interesting in the face of a ''stoic silence'' from a nearly 12 lakh-strong electorate enrolled across 1,271 booths.
The cacophony of campaigning -- thus far limited to corner meetings, door-to-door canvassing and road-shows -- is yet to move the voters who are at the crossroads as the district, earlier having four segments, has been fragmented into seven following delimitation and issues fluctuate each passing day.
Highly respected for his mercurial rise from a 'mazdoor' (labourer) in a textile mill to the state's 'mukhyamantri' (chief minister), Mr Gaur -- born in a Yadav family in Uttar Pradesh -- was first elected to the Assembly from Govindpura in a 1974 bypoll. He is again in the fray from the same area truncated by delimitation.
Detractors do not lag behind in pointing out his demotion from chief minister to a Cabinet Minister and his ''arrogant outbursts'' but there are many having soft corners for him in Govindpura which covers the Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited township.
Former Bhopal mayor Vibha Patel of the Congress is pitted against Mr Gaur in a 16-cornered contest. The Uma Bharti-led Bharatiya Jan Shakti (BJS) nominee Ghisalal Yadav propagates himself as a ''real'' Yadav.
Two former mayors Uma Shankar Gupta (a former Bharatiya Janata Party minister) and Deepchand Yadav (Cong) have locked horns in Bhopal South where Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) candidate Sanjeev Saxena is playing spoilsport. Senior BJP leader Kailash Sarang's son Vishwas, who claims himself to be a bidi leaf plucker, is taking on Mr Sood (Cong) from newly-carved out Narela. Mr Vishwas is also state president of the BJP's youth wing.
Sitting Congress MLA Aqueel is taking on greenhorn Alok Sharma (BJP) in Muslim-dominated Bhopal North, while Mr Dhruv Narain Singh (BJP) is in a multi-cornered contest from Bhopal Central with Mr Naseer Islam (Cong) as his main rival.
Huzur constituency, comprising the Sindhi community-dominated Bairagarh and satellite town Huzur, is witnessing lack-lustre electioneering with several workers of both BJP and Congress sitting idle over ticket allotment.
Resentment in BJP is more pronounced as senior party leader Sushma Swaraj's nominee Jitendra Daga was given a ticket overlooking the cadre, while another strong claimant Bhagwandas Sabnani -- who rejoined the BJP recently after a brief stint with BJS -- is in the fray as an independent in a 16-cornered contest.
In Berasia, the district's sole rural constituency, BSP candidate Bhujbal Singh Ahirwar is pitted in a 9-corner contest along with Congress, BJP and BJS nominees.