Mama almost in the same league as Modi

Last Updated 14 December 2018, 19:39 IST

From being a back-bencher politician to a three-term chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, Shivraj Singh Chouhan has the knack of turning a given opportunity to gold.

The fourth term in office against all odds would catapult 59-year-old Chouhan to a league with Narendra Modi, the only other four-term BJP chief minister.

However, the route to yet another term is not an easy one, given the angry farmers and traders in the state, who backed him in previous elections.

A day after Madhya Pradesh votes to elect the next government, Chouhan will complete 13 years as chief minister, a post he has held withholding pressure from many stalwarts in state politics.

A shrewd politician, he has held sway over the large state despite the presence of senior leaders such as Kailash Vijayvargiya, Narendra Singh Tomar, Prabhat Jha, Uma Bharti and Babulal Gaur, whom he had succeeded in office.

Chouhan is also seen as the more acceptable face of the BJP who could take all sections of the society along; so much so that before 2014, he was propped up as a rival to Modi by none other than BJP veteran L K Advani.

His ability to strike a chord with the RSS cadre and also being able to don a skull cap to celebrate Eid endeared Chouhan to Muslims, who still support him.

"Shivraj has struck a direct connect with the electorate by distributing cycles to girl students, giving smartphones to students, sending the elderly on pilgrimage and waiving fees for kids of the under-privileged sections," A P S Chauhan, professor of Political Science, Jiwaji University, Gwalior, told DH.

The showering of freebies has also made Chouhan popular among the youth who address him as 'mama' (maternal uncle).

Chouhan's current term in office has been the most controversial, with allegations against him in the Vyapam scam and the firing on farmers at Mandsaur in June last year.

The death of six farmers demanding better price for farm produce hit Chouhan's carefully cultivated image of "son of the soil" committed to the welfare of the downtrodden.

Chouhan also got the message when his 'Jana Aashirwad Yatra', that began in July with an aim of covering all 230 Assembly seats, was greeted with black flags and even stones in parts of the state. This prompted Chouhan to end the yatra abruptly.

Despite the setback, Chouhan still remains a popular leader across the state prompting the BJP to make him the face of the party’s campaign.

'Maaf karo maharaj, hamara neta Shivraj' campaign by the BJP has caused some heartburn in the Congress as it appeared directed at party leader and chief ministerial aspirant Jyotiraditya Scindia.

Born on March 5, 1959 in a farmer's family as the son of Prem Singh Chouhan and Sundarbai Chouhan in Sehore’s Jait village, he had displayed leadership skills right when he was elected the president of Model Higher Secondary School Student’s Union in 1975.

He participated in an underground movement against Emergency and was imprisoned. Chouhan held several positions in the Bhartiya Janata Yuva Morcha before being elected as an MLA from Budhni in 1990. The following year he was elected to the Lok Sabha, where he has been a five-term member.

(Published 26 November 2018, 14:44 IST)

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