Home to the iconic Taj-ul-Masjid, the Bhopal Uttar Assembly constituency in Madhya Pradesh reflects the “nawabi culture” of the city with a host of eateries and busy markets in the old quarters. This stronghold of the Congress seems to be heading for a cracker of a contest with alleged differences within the Congress camp.
Congress veteran and six-time MLA Arif Aqueel has passed on the baton of candidature to his son Atif. However, Arif’s brother Amer is reported to be sore after being denied the Congress ticket and his supporters may give Congress a thumbs down as the latter is contesting as an independent. Many traders and residents in the area complain about their legislator being inactive and invisible.
Congestion, lack of parking facility, over hanging electricity wires and illegal extension in commercial areas and lack of pedestrian overbridges for pedestrians are some of the problems highlighted by voters in the area. Some residents of Hindu-dominated neighbourhoods said that their legislator has carried out development work only in Arif Nagar area and other areas have been ignored.
A part of the commercial district of Bhopal is also situated in Bhopal Uttar constituency. The lack of public spaces and congestion in the interiors of neighbourhoods and markets poses a big challenge for elected representatives to bring about major changes in the constituency. Encroachment by shopkeepers, especially in the area around the Taj-ul-Masjid and adjoining lake has further squeezed the public space.
In 2018, Arif Aqueel of the Congress got 90,403 votes and beat Fatima Rasool Siddiqui of the BJP who got 55,546 votes. Since 1992, this seat has never been won by any party other than the Congress. The BJP has fielded former Mayor Alok Sharma on the seat which has a sizeable population from the minority community. Atif said he is going to emulate his father’s working style and serve the people like them. “Due to my father’s poor health, I have been handling the public issues in the Assembly. The voters have seen my style of working and this is going to be my plus point.”
Sharma said the old quarters of Bhopal are still suffering from poor development. “The legislator has not been able to meet the expectations of residents,” said Sharma.