BJP in dilemma over Chouhan's future role

BJP in dilemma over Chouhan's future role

Shivraj Singh Chouhan

The BJP central leadership is in a fix as to what role should be assigned to the former chief minister of Madhya Pradesh Shivraj Singh Chouhan in view of the coming Lok Sabha election.

Despite the BJP’s drubbing in the just-concluded Assembly election, Chouhan remains its most popular leader in Madhya Pradesh, who served as chief minister for 13 years. Under his leadership, the BJP managed to win 109 seats, just seven less of the Congress.

The party’s dilemma is that if it openly acknowledges Chouhan’s popularity, it could be construed that anti-incumbency in the state was more against Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s policies than that of the state government.

On the other hand, putting the blame squarely on Chouhan for the narrow defeat could harm the BJP’s prospects in the 2019 Lok Sabha election, given his clout in the party.   

To add to the dilemma, Chouhan has made it clear that he is not interested in central politics. Scotching the speculation that he might be fielded from the Vidisha Lok Sabha seat, the former chief minister said he would remain devoted to the state and its people till his last breath.

Chouhan had represented Vidisha five times and vacated the seat after becoming chief minister in 2005. On his invitation, Union External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj chose to contest from Vidisha seat and won twice in 2009 and 2014.  She has, however, declined to contest the next Lok Sabha election.

Therefore, Vidisha, one of the safest BJP seats in Madhya Pradesh is open for Chouhan to re-enter the Lok Sabha.  But he is eyeing the Leader of Opposition post.

To this end, the former chief minister is positioning himself in the mould of late Atal Behari Vajpayee.  The tone and tenor of his last press conference where he owned responsibility for the defeat, was markedly reminiscent of the late prime minister’s liberal and humble persona.   

Chouhan not only attended the oath-taking ceremony of his successor but also raised hands with chief minister Kamal Nath and Jyotiraditya Scindia in tandem from the stage.  He also later paid courtesy to Kamal Nath and Digvijaya Singh.  

The former chief minister wanted to take out a statewide yatra to express gratitude to the voters but the high command declined him the permission. Nonetheless, Chouhan went ahead with his plan to host a mass feast for the electorate in his Budni constituency on Wednesday.

He assured the supporters not to feel dejected by the election outcome as he would continue to be around. "Tiger Zinda Hai", he cryptically told the residents of his constituency, invoking the Salman Khan-starrer super-hit film.