Electing Shivraj Singh Chouhan wasn’t tough for central leaders

New Delhi: For Shivraj Singh Chouhan, 61, becoming the chief minister of one of India’s largest states for the fourth time took single-minded focus, persistence and an accurate understanding of the political situation. For the past 15 months, since the BJP lost power in Madhya Pradesh, despite being given a national role as party vice president and in-charge of the party’s membership drive, Chouhan never drifted away from his focus on the state.

In the past two weeks, as the political drama progressed to a crescendo, Chouhan was never complacent. While in Bhopal he made sure he reached out to the MLAs at the hotel every day and he also reached out to the Governor several times, requesting him to instruct the assembly speaker to conduct a floor test as soon as possible.

Chouan faced three rivals for the CM’s post – Narottam Mishra, Union minister Narendra Singh Tomar and the president of the BJP’s state unit, VD Sharma.

In Delhi, the meeting of the central leadership took place at Tomar’s residence, where Tomar said at the outset that he was not in the race to become CM. Mishra, on the other hand, is expected to get an important role in the new state government.

Before the two BJP central observers sat down for the meeting, Union ministers Dharmendra Pradhan and Tomar sent them a short message, “SSC (short form of Chouhan’s name)”. The entire process was conducted just to formalise his name.

Two important factors went in Chouhan’s favour, according to party members. One, he is the most popular leader in MP. Fondly called ‘Mama (maternal uncle)’, he tried to reach out to a large section of the population during his three successive terms as CM, especially those were not supporters of the BJP. Second, he is seen as someone who can manage both the government and the mix of BJP and newly inducted Congress members.

Chouhan first became CM on November 29, 2005, and his swearing-in was attended by Atal Bihari Vajpayee and LK Advani. In his first decision as CM, he sanctioned medical aid of Rs 1.25 lakh each to 10 families. In later years, this became a tradition and he never hesitated in providing financial assistance for medical treatment. His schemes such as Ladli for girl child, Bhawantar for farmers and several others made him a people’s leader in the state.

At this point, the BJP needs a leader who can not only manage the wafer-thin majority but also look after the ambitions of several other leaders. At the same time, the party has to prepare for the bypolls on 24 assembly seats.

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