What is the role for ex-CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan in Madhya Pradesh?

BJP has appointed former chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan as its vice president — bringing a powerful state leader into national politics. But is he still trying to arrange his role in the state?

 |  3-minute read |   13-01-2019
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A discussion that dominates political circles in Madhya Pradesh these days pertains to the future of former CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan. Having lost to the Congress, albeit by a small margin, Chouhan is trying to ascertain a role for himself, and he is realising that it’s not easy.

Soon after the results were out, Chouhan voiced his interest in being Leader of Opposition, but the party had by then decided that none of the CMs of the states where BJP was defeated, namely MP, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan, will be appointed to the post. Chouhan, and indeed Dr Raman Singh — the former CM of Chhattisgarh and the longest-serving BJP CM ever — were both keen to be appointed presidents of their respective state units.

It was expected that the party would take a call on the future roles for the ex-CMs during the national council meeting in Delhi on January 11 and 12, but on Thursday, springing a surprise, BJP president Amit Shah appointed all three ex-CMs as party vice-presidents. Both Chouhan and Singh could have been an asset to the BJP during the Lok Sabha elections. Perhaps there were other considerations that guided the move.

main_shivraj-chouhan_011219061658.jpegShivraj Singh Chouhan was always seen a central leader before he became MP Chief Minister in 2005. It is interesting to see his preference for state politics. (Photo: India Today)

By appointing Shivraj Singh Chouhan and Raman Singh as vice-presidents, the party has given a clear signal that the leaders are now expected to focus on national-level politics. In other words, they need to leave the state to new leaders.

This is not something they wanted for themselves. It remains to be seen whether Chouhan is given the responsibility of an important state after being appointed a vice-president. Otherwise, the post is ornamental.

What are the options for Chouhan right now? One is to contest the Lok Sabha from Vidisha, to be vacated by foreign minister Sushma Swaraj in 2019, and then move to Delhi, as a minister if the BJP returns to power or as an Opposition leader in case the party doesn’t make it.

Is this appointment a setback for Chouhan? Publicly, he has maintained that he would like to be in the state and help the BJP win again. He has been active in the Vidhan Sabha during the ongoing Winter Session. The preference Chouhan has for state politics is interesting given the fact that he was always seen a central leader in MP before he became CM in 2005. Since 1991, he has spent 14 years, including five terms as an MP from Vidisha. During this period, he mastered politics in BJP’s central unit.

He was close to the RSS and all the important general secretaries and central leaders including Pramod Mahajan, Venkaiah Naidu, Ananth Kumar, Sushma Swaraj and Ravishankar Prasad. He was close to LK Advani when the former deputy PM was not a margdarshak. It did not get him a berth in Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s 13-day, 13-month or full term governments, but it did get him appointed state BJP president in 2005, and finally CM – even though he did not have any prior administrative experience.

Chouhan doesn’t want to move to Delhi. The reason perhaps lies in there being an antagonistic leadership for him at the helm in the BJP right now. He remains a poster-boy for the RSS but wants to keep a distance from Delhi. He is aware it doesn’t take long to move from Delhi to Bhopal as he has done it in the past. In 2019, if the BJP emerges as the single largest party but falls short of a majority, the leadership may be questioned. Will it take long to move from Bhopal to Delhi in such a scenario? Not really. And is that why he has been summoned to Delhi?

(Courtesy of Mail Today)

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Writer

Rahul Noronha Rahul Noronha

The writer is Associate Editor, India Today.

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