Chouhan’s popularity dips as Congress shares honours.
New Delhi: After Gujarat, the BJP has received a major jolt in poll-bound Madhya Pradesh. In the recently held civic polls, the Congress virtually routed the BJP in the urban municipalities, indicating a possible decline in the popularity of state chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, especially in the urban areas.
As per the results declared on Saturday, both the BJP and Congress won nine president posts each in 19 civic bodies. One seat was won by a BJP rebel candidate.
Earlier, the BJP held 12 president posts while the Congress had seven.
The results come as a major cause of concern for the chief minister who has been fighting speculations of his possible replacement before the Assembly polls. A section of BJP functionaries in the state had been mounting pressure on the party high command to replace him before the Assembly polls.
To make things worse, his bete noire, former Union minister Uma Bharati, has decided to “work actively” for the Assembly polls, expected to be held later this year.
Mr Chouhan who had replaced Ms Bharati as Madhya Pradesh chief minister.
The Congress’ sterling performance was in Raghogarh, the bastion of senior Congress leader Digvijay Singh.
Congress won big in Raghogarh by bagging 20 out of 24 wards despite the fact that Mr Chouhan had extensively campaigned in this region.
The Congress’ performance assumes significance because it managed to make a serious dent in areas that have so far been BJP strongholds. It wrested Dhar, Manawar, Sardarpur, Dharampuri, Khetia and Anjad from the BJP.
The next major upcoming test for the ruling BJP and the chief minister would be the byelections to Mungaoli and Kolaras Assembly seats. The outcome of the by-polls, slated to be held on February 24, is expected to be a pointer to the general mood before the Assembly elections. The bypolls are being held following the death of sitting Congress MLAs Mahendra Singh Kalukheda (Mungaoli) and Ram Singh Yadav (Kolaras).
This is going to be battle royale between Jyotiraditya Scindia, who is trying to position himself as the Congress’ chief ministerial candidate, and Mr Chouhan. While the chief minister has unleashed his entire Cabinet to campaign in these Assembly segments, besides promising a slew of welfare measures and schemes, for Mr Scindia it’s matter of prestige to retain these two seats in his home turf, Gwalior.
That Mr Chouhan was apparently under pressure became somewhat evident when a video showing him slapping a man in his security during a roadshow went viral. The Congress had demanded a case be registered against the chief minister.
The chief minister hit back saying that unlike Congress leaders, he does not allow his security men to come between him and the public.
“During the Congress era, nobody could touch the chief minister. It was difficult to even stand next to the chief minister. When people come to meet me and are stopped due to security reasons, I catch hold of the securitymen, move them aside and say, ‘Aane do bhaiyya, milne do’ (Let them come and meet me),” he said.