Despite loss in MP, Shivraj Singh Chouhan still indispensable

Lok Sabha polls to 29 seats in MP will be held in four phases on April 29, and May 6, 12 and 19, with the results scheduled to be declared on May 23.

New Delhi: The ongoing Lok Sabha polls process has brought out the survivor in the former chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, Shivraj Singh Chouhan. The senior BJP leader, despite losing Assembly elections in the state months ago, has been able to maintain a good rapport with the Central unit and has emerged as someone considered indispensable as far as politics in the state is concerned.

Of the three chief ministers — Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Vasundhara Raje and Dr Raman Singh who recently lost power in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh respectively — only Mr Chouhan has been able to maintain his say in the state that he once led. And it is evident from the fact that he is the only chief minister who has been actively engaged by its Central unit as it prepares to take on a rejuvinated Congress led by Kamal Nath in Madhya Pradesh.

“Chouhan has been a part of strategy team in Madhya Pradesh which is trying to garner the major chunk of seats for the BJP,” sources stated. It is learnt hat Mr Chouhan’s views were taken into account before finalisation of Lok Sabha candidates unlike his two colleagues from neighbouring states. Sources pointed that Mr Chouhan also played a key role in the recent induction of Sadhvi Pragya Singh Thakur to the BJP fold and the decision to pit her against the Congress candidate and former chief minister Digvijay Singh. Mr Chouhan and BJP leader and Rajya Sabha MP Prabhat Jha had welcomed her to the party fold in Bhopal earlier this week.

Recent developments have also revealed that Mr Chouhan was the only one among the three former high-profile chief ministers of BJP who has been able to maintain his stature in the party. Interestingly, the BJP has all but sidelined multiple time chief ministers Vasundhara Raje and Dr Raman Singh ever since their Assembly poll loss, which has become quite evident ever since the Lok Sabha poll process has unveiled.

In fact, as the ticket distribution process was on, Ms Raje was forced to plead for the candidature of few of her loyalists, and not always successfully. While the Central leadership completely dismissed Chhaittisgarh’s incumbent MPs, fielding fresh faces in all 11 Lok Sabha seats in the state, including denial of ticket to Abhishek Singh, the son of Dr Raman Singh, the incumbent MP from Rajnandgaon.

Sources said that Ms Raje and Dr Singh had been facing huge anti-incumbency, anger of common citizens and also party cadres so it was decided to keep their involvement to a minimal possible level.

“The BJP felt that this was not the case with Chouhan. The clean image and accessibility of the former chief minister to common man and party cadre helped in his enhanced role during the ongoing general election strategy and campaign,” sources stated.

In fact, the goodwill he enjoyed was also the reason that the Central leadership, led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party chief Amit Shah, decided against fielding him in the Lok Sabha polls after Mr Chouhan requested to be excused. It is learnt that the former chief minister may continue to hold sway over state politics post general elections and the BJP is seemingly still banking on him for a future leadership role in the Madhya Pradesh, sources added.

Lok Sabha elections to 29 seats in MP will be held in four phases on April 29, and May 6, 12 and 19, with the results scheduled to be declared on May 23.

Retaining maximum constituencies in Madhya Pradesh is considered an important part of the BJP’s plan to return to power at the Centre as the state had elected 26 out of 29 of its Lok Sabha MPs from the party symbol in 2014.

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