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Chouhan’s MP Yatra rings warning bells for BJP

NewsChouhan’s MP Yatra rings warning bells for BJP

The Vikas Yatra has brought, albeit unintended, results for Chouhan with reports of voters being upset with his party MLAs and ministers in at least 40 seats.

NEW DELHI: In May 2018, just five months before the Assembly polls, the then Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh launched a “Vikas Yatra” with the objective to go among the voters personally and remind them of the development work (vikas) that Singh, who was popularly addressed as “Chaur wale Baba”, had done for the people of Chhattisgarh since the last 15 years when he first became the Chief Minister after defeating Ajit Jogi led Congress in the 2003 polls.
By the time Singh returned to Raipur after completing his one month tour, he was sure that the BJP was not coming back to power. Later, he told a few journalists that the anger that he saw against his party MLAs among the voters during the yatra convinced them that he will not return as the CM. And since the elections were less than 150 days away, he could not do anything to change the inevitable. Singh was proved right when the election results came in. The Congress got an unprecedented 68 seats in the House of 90 MLAs with the BJP coming down to 15 from the 49 that it had won in 2013. On 5 February this year, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, who is looking to take the oath of the CM for the fifth time, began a similar Vikas Yatra from Bhind. During this 20-day tour, Chouhan and his cabinet colleague, party MLAs covered all the 230 Assembly constituencies and interacted with the voters. After the yatra was completed, the CM shared impressive numbers on what the yatra had achieved while terming it as a “yagya” (religious ritual) for achieving public welfare in which he claimed that as many as 38506 development works costing Rs 10,000 crore were dedicated to the people and “Bhumi-pujan” (foundation stone laying) of 29155 development works were conducted.
Chouhan, in telling statistics, stated that during the Yatra, he and his colleagues received 912819 applications from the public, out of which more than 85%, 781414 applications, were resolved. The yatra, as per MP BJP leaders, had achieved the purpose of senior leaders and ministers reaching out directly to the voters in the state where elections are scheduled for November.
However, the yatra has also brought, albeit unintended, results for Chouhan with reports of voters being upset with his party MLAs and ministers in at least 40 seats. The BJP right now has 130 MLAs.
In multiple Assembly seats, the local MLA was not allowed to enter the villages by local voters who were angry with the lack of work and complained of their grievances of not being heard either by the government offices or by elected leaders. In many places due to the lack of people congregating to welcome the yatra and participate in it, the local BJP leaders were forced to resort to new ways including arranging for women dancers who caught the attention with their moves on latest Bollywood songs. In several places, MLAs were heckled by locals due to which they had to cut short their programs.
While publicly the BJP leaders have dismissed these incidents as something that was orchestrated by Congress, privately, party leaders agree that it was a “difficult election”. The feedback experienced by party MLAs from the ground has also been confirmed by state Intelligence machinery that has claimed that in case the elections are held today, the BJP will win on 85-90 seats. Bhopal-based leaders told The Sunday Guardian that a survey that was done under the instruction of the local organization has too given the same numbers.
What has added to more complexities to Chouhan’s quest is the fact that in at least 30-35 seats, he will have to give tickets to the names that are proposed by Union minister Jyotiraditya Scindia. And all these names in the last election either contested on a Congress ticket or were Congress workers.
Now, with Scindia becoming an integral part of the BJP, Chouhan has no choice but to accept the demands of the names that will be recommended by Scindia especially in the Gwalior belt. This means that many of the BJP leaders who either contested the last Assembly elections or were expecting to be given the ticket this time, will be left disappointed. Local sources active on the ground told The Sunday Guardian that whoever gets the BJP ticket in these areas (most of which will be Scindia supporters) will not only be contesting against the Congress, but will also be facing internal sabotage.
The BJP’s internal politics will also necessitate that not many of Scindia supporters win the election, lest they start pushing the demand for installing Scindia as the CM and replace Chouhan in an election that is unlikely to result in a land-slide result for the BJP.
In the last election in 2018, the BJP had won 109 seats, compared to 114 won by the Congress as a result of which Chouhan had to step down and pave the way for the return of the Kamal Nath led Congress rule in the state after 2003. However, with Scindia rebelling along with his 22 MLAs and joining the BJP, Chouhan was again able to take the oath of the CM post in March 2020. Keeping the feedback and surveys into consideration and the fact that this is likely going to be the last election in which the BJP leadership will allow Chouhan, who was removed from the party’s parliamentary board in August last year, to be the face of the party in the state and the CM in the event the BJP wins again, the 63-year-old Chouhan is likely to repeat the “Gujarat model” of dropping as many sitting MLAs he possibly can to remove “anti-incumbency” from the equation.

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