Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who scored a massive win in the 2013 Assembly elections, is slowly but surely moving towards establishing himself as a power centre in the BJP’s scheme of things.
State party leaders see the recent invitation by Chouhan to party patriarch L K Advani to contest the general election from Bhopal as a step towards increasing his own stature in the BJP. “Sushma Swaraj is already an MP from here and with Advani too coming to Bhopal, a major BJP power centre would have been created in the state”, a party functionary said.
Chouhan’s supporters feel that the importance of Madhya Pradesh hasn’t been adequately recognised by the party in the past. “The state has one of the strongest networks of the RSS and its affiliate organisations. It has been a bastion of the Sangh for long. Many senior leaders including Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Kushabhau Thakre, and Vijayraje Scindia, have emerged from this state. For the last 10 years, Madhya Pradesh has been a shining example of what BJP governance is all about. So what is wrong if some of the state leaders feels that they should be given more say in the central leadership?
Except Advani, a majority of the senior leaders have failed to promote Chouhan and Madhya Pradesh as much they should have been,” a senior party office-bearer said. Even though state leaders refrain from directly comparing Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi with Chouhan, they do suggest that if it is just about numbers and achievements, Chouhan has done much more than Modi.
“Everyone knows the kind of mess Madhya Pradesh was when we came to power. There was no road, no electricity and no water. We were lagging behind in most of the social and economic parameters. Compare the situation of Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh in 2003 and you will get your answer. Chouhan is single-handedly responsible for bringing the state out of the ‘bimaru’ category,” a senior MLA, who is considered very close to the Chief Minister, said.
His assertions are confirmed by the data released by the Central Statistical Organisation last month which stated that Madhya Pradesh is estimated to grow at 11.08 percent in 2013-14 as compared to 9.89 percent in the previous year. The figure for Gujarat in the previous year was 8 percent. Politically too, the state is “stronger”. While Gujarat has 26 Parliamentary seats, Madhya Pradesh has 29 Lok Sabha seats and the importance of the BJP’s performance in the state towards the mission 272 needn’t be emphasised further.
During the last Assembly election, a Bhopal-based RSS functionary had said the party’s central leadership was hoping for at least 22-25 seats from Gujarat and failing to achieve this number would drastically disturb the ‘Modi for PM’ plan.
Unlike Modi, Chouhan does things in a more nuanced and subtle way. He looks at a very larger picture and is prepared to wait for his time to come. To promote the image of an all-round Chief Minister, Chouhan invited business tycoons such as Anil Ambani to his swearing-in last year.
Chouhan has also carefully cultivated a “secular” image by hosting Iftar dinners, wearing skull caps and making sure that no communal riots happened in a state where the RSS has presence in every nook and cranny. “The babus and the police officers know that if any riot happens, they will be severally punished and hence communal tension is something which has never made news in the state,” an official with the Public Relations Department said.
Even though the party is chanting ‘ghar ghar Modi’ now, Chouhan’s supporters believe that if the BJP fails to achieve a majority on its own on May 16 when the results are announced, the slogan will soon change to ‘phir Shivraj’. “