A tale of three former CMs in Madhya Pradesh

A tale of three former CMs in Madhya Pradesh

At a time when BJP’s Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is crisscrossing the dusty village by-lanes and crowded urban localities to seek a fourth term, three former chief ministers seem to be watching the polls as bystanders.

Digvijay Singh: Congress’s two-term chief minister, Digvijay Singh (1993 to 2003), is now a backroom boy managing party affairs.

Singh is missing from most of the posters and cut-outs of the Congress in this election. His absence is so telling that even Rahul Gandhi addressed an election rally in Bhojpur in favour of former Union minister Suresh Pachouri, whose only visible picture was in a collage with second-rung leaders like Ajay Singh Rahul.

The "political guru" of Rahul Gandhi, Singh’s sound bite “Congress loses votes with my speeches, which is why I don't attend rallies” went viral on social media. His name was not even in the star campaigners’ list.

Singh, who is often charged with pandering to Muslim sentiments, is not the favourite in this season of polarised politics, where the Congress is temple-hopping to garner votes.

The Congress wants to avoid the memory of his 10-year rule in MP, which is believed to have failed miserably on Bijli Paani and Sadak (BSP).

Uma Bharti: BJP’s prominent OBC Lodh leader Uma Bharti, under whose leadership, the party made an unmatched record of winning 173 of 230 seats in 2003 Assembly polls, is a pale shadow of her past now.

The former CM has no role in party’s strategy and planning for the polls. In fact, her marginalisation within the party, especially related to Madhya Pradesh affairs was complete in 2011 when she re-joined the BJP after experimenting with a new outfit - Bharitya Janashakti Party, which bombed in 2008 MP polls. 

In the 2012 Assembly polls, she was projected the face of the BJP for UP, but the party failed. It is rare that one person is projected as the CM face for two states.

Old-timers recall how she used to embrace stray cows on the roads. Once, Bharti had got her helicopter land close to a sugarcane farm to have sugarcane juice.

This time, with the BJP falling back on Hindutva pitch again, saffron-clad Bharti has been roped in for campaigning. But though she is in the list of star campaigners, she is confined to Teekamgarh and adjoining regions.

Battling health issues and marginalisation, she told voters in Jhansi that she would not contest elections in 2018 (MP) or 2019 Lok Sabha polls, but later clarified that she was "not retiring" from politics.

Babulal Gaur: The 88-year-old stop-gap CM - during the transition of power from Uma Bharti to Shivraj Singh - is a man of anecdotes.

He was once asked why only Bhopal looks clean and not the rest of the state. His reply was “In your house also you keep your drawing room more tidy and decorated”. Gaur used to promise he would make Bhopal look like Paris.

Gaur, who never lost an election from Govindura, also had no qualms in stating that it was also because Congress always fielded a weak candidate against him owing to his friendship with Congress' Arjun Singh.

He had angered the BJP leadership with his perceived proximity to Congress leader Kamal Nath, too. In 2014, he remarked “rape is sometimes right and sometimes wrong."

He also announced that all stray cattle would be sent to prison, and each jail would have a gaushala. 

His house is now visited by old timers, mostly from non BJP circles — the socialists. Gaur flaunts his past trade union connection.

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