November 06, 2013

SHIV-RAJ IN MP? - PART II


MADHYA PRADESH 2013: CAN THE BJP CLAIM A HAT TRICK?




If the Opinion polls across all channels are to be believed then Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chauhan is leading his party to a historic third consecutive term in the state assembly polls in November 2013. The saffron outfit has been in power in the state since 2003, when the dynamic Hindutva icon, the firebrand Uma Bharati routed the Congress under Digvijay Singh as the BJP won nearly seventy five per cent of the seats. However a year later, after an arrest warrant was issued for her role in the Hubli riot case, she was asked to resign and was replaced by her Home Minister Babulal Gaur. In 2005, Gaur was himself replaced by Shivraj, whose name has become synonymous with the party in much of the state. For all those who accused him of reaping the benefits of the hard work put in by Bharati, Chauhan won a second straight victory here in 2008 despite of Bharati's rebellion. In fact, at one point of time, his name was even being considered in party circles for the job of BJP's Prime Minister nominee in an attempt to prevent the splitting of the NDA on the candidature of Narendra Modi. Although he may have lost the race to lead the BJP's coalition at the Center to his more flamboyant counterpart from Gujarat, the incumbent Chief Minister is ready in the battle for Bhopal. 

Like so many of the leaders in the Opposition today, Shivraj's foray into politics began with the underground movement against the Emergency in 1977. A four time MP from Vidisha, his entry into state politics began in the 2003 assembly polls where he was pitted against Congress heavyweight and the sitting CM Diggi Raja from his stronghold of Raghogarh. Though Uma led BJP won a splendid victory; though Chauhan himself lost the polls, his courageous step had won him many admirers, especially in the party high command. After Bharati resigned in 2004, Gaur was made the CM, a stop gap arrangement to keep various factions happy. Serving as the BJP President back then, he was chosen for the top job in spite of him not being on good terms with Bharati. Nonetheless, the soft spoken Shivraj built up his image, primarily on the development work carried by him and managed to see off the rebellion of his bete noire. And then came the biggest moment of his political career in 2008 when he scripted a historic win for his party, winning about 140 seats. This victory enhanced his reputation beyond Bhopal and as the leadership debate heated up in the saffron outfit ahead of the 2014 Lok Sabha, his name was being considered because of his clean image. Although the tough talking Gujarat CM Narendra Modi took away the cake, Chauhan will certainly not mind as long as he is at the helm of affairs in Bhopal.

There are several reasons that have contributed to the spectacular rise of the incumbent CM in the last eight years. A not so well known face in political circles prior to 2005, his development schemes aimed specially at women and the poorer sections of the society have been a mass hit. In a state that has seen very little worth while development over the years, Shivraj is looked upon as a leader who delivers on his promise. Unlike the Lalus and the Mulayums who have a support base amongst certain sections of the society, Chauhan's popularity has transcended such barriers. In fact, if the BJP comes to power here again in 2013, it will largely be due to the popularity of their leader. Another feather in his cap has been the manner in which he nullified the influence of Uma Bharati within such a small span of time. After the appointment of Shivraj, a furious Uma walked out of the BJP and founded a new party - the Bharatiya Janshakti Party. Although there were speculation that several MLAs would join her endangering the government, Chauhan managed to complete his term. And then in the next assembly polls, as the new outfit managed to get just five seats, Singh won a landslide. Three years later, by the time that the sanyasi returned back to the BJP in 2011, Chauhan had become one of the most popular faces of the party in the Hindi heartland.

For the BJP which was supposed to sweep MP according to all Opinion polls till some time back, the task seem be getting difficult by the day. The appointment of the junior Scindia as its campaign chief here is helping the Congress. Jyotiraditya's image as a youth leader and the goodwill of father - the late Madhavrao Scindia who are working in his favor. The internal feud between the two distinct camps within the party - the Jyotiraditya & Kamal Nath camp and the Digvijay Singh led group has been put on the back burner after intervention of the Gandhis. Reports now suggest that tickets are being distributed taking all the top leaders into account to prevent rebellion as far as possible. On the other hand the case of sexual assault against the former Finance Minister Raghavji who has been lately expelled from the party; the perception of the regime going soft on Asaram Bapu accused of raping a minor; the callousness of the administration that led to Ratangarh Mata Temple stampede that left 115 people dead and rising cases of atrocities against women are likely to hurt the BJP badly. What would go against the party though is the large number of rebels in the fray who are expected to dent its prospects across several seats. In a bid to combat anti-incumbency, many serving MLAs, including a few ministers have been denied ticket and they look determined to make a point by indulging in anti-party activities.

Knowing that anti-incumbency will be a factor, especially since the BJP has been in power here for two consecutive terms, the party has been pretty strict in selecting its candidates. The state BJP President Narendra Kumar Tomar and Organization head Arvind Menon, both of whom are said to be close to the CM are helping him in this arduous task. Amongst the heavy weights, Shivraj Singh Chauhan will seek re-election from Budni apart from sentering the fray in Vidisha, a move seen to cut the influence of Raghoji. Former CM and the Urban Minister in the state cabinet Gaur will file nominations from Govindpur. Prominent minister who have managed to make the cut include Home Minister Uma Shankar Gupta (Bhopal - South West), Industries Minister Kailash Vijaywagiya (Mhow) and Health Minister Dr. Narottam Mishra (Datia). To make sure that it maximizes its numbers, three serving MPs namely Yashodhara Raje Scindia, Bhupendra Singh and K D Deshmukh have been asked to contest from Shivpuri, Khurai and Khatangi. Taking a cue from the Congress, BJP too has fielded kin of several leaders including Uma Bharati's nephew Rahul Singh (Kharagpur), the sons of former CMs Sunderlal Patwa and Kailash Joshi and Anup Mishra - the nephew of former PM Vajpayee. Former Memebr of Parliament and Muslim face Arif Beg has been allocated a ticket from Bhopal - North. Several sitting MLAs who have been denied tickets are expected to contest independently or join rival outfits in the coming days.


For more on the Madhya Pradesh Elections 2013, click here (Link)