Shivraj Chouhan addressing the public in Shivpuri
Shivraj Chouhan addressing the public in Shivpuri | @ChouhanShivraj Twitter handle
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Senior BJP leaders believe the central leadership might sideline Chouhan as he is anyway battling a 15-year anti-incumbency ahead of this year’s polls.

New Delhi: It seems the national leadership of the Bharatiya Janata Party will now play a more important role in the politics of Madhya Pradesh, while chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan will have to be content playing second fiddle after the BJP failed to win two assembly bypolls – Mungaoli and Kolaras.

Senior BJP leaders said Prime Minister Narendra Modi and party chief Amit Shah were likely to wrest charge of the state unit from Chouhan and his loyalists ahead of the assembly polls in the state later in the year.

Chouhan met Modi at the BJP’s chief ministers’ council Wednesday and briefed him on his 15-year government’s achievements in Madhya Pradesh. But the bypoll defeats have undermined his once-unchallenged authority, say senior party leaders.

His name has already cropped up within party circles as one of the incumbent CMs who could be replaced before the assembly polls.

Chouhan’s might can’t get results

The two bypolls – in seats previously held by the Congress and which fall within Congress MP Jyotiraditya Scindia’s constituency of Guna – were said to be reflective of the ‘mood of the people’. Chouhan and Scindia had pretty much made it a battle for personal pride on the campaign trail.

Last year, the BJP had lost the bypoll in Chitrakoot, and this time, decided to run a huge campaign, with 40 star campaigners in each constituency.

Chouhan had given responsibilities to the likes of home minister Bhupendra Singh, energy minister Paras Jain, education minister Jaibhan Singh, water resources minister Narottam Mishra, revenue minister Umashankar Gupta and health minister Rustam Singh to ensure victory in the bypolls. The CM himself camped in the two constituencies for days, asking people to reject the Congress and endorse the development done by the BJP in its 15 years in power in Madhya Pradesh.

There was also a ‘royal’ family angle to the battle. Yashodhara Raje, the minister of sports and youth welfare and aunt to Jyotiraditya Scindia, sought votes in Kolaras by invoking the legacy of her late mother and BJP leader Vijaya Raje Scindia. She reportedly even went to the extent of threatening the voters that they would miss out on the benefits of development if the seat went to the Congress, for which she received an Election Commission notice.

Jyotiraditya, on the other hand, pleaded with voters to remember his father Madhavrao Scindia, the former Congress leader, and his commitment to them.

Massive anti-incumbency

The BJP’s defeat, despite the presence of all its big guns, has thus sent a negative message to cadres and voters.

A recent survey conducted by the BJP across all of Madhya Pradesh’s assembly constituencies showed a massive anti-incumbency factor on at least 60 per cent of seats. Sitting MLAs need to be changed, and the party has even discussed making some of its members of Parliament contest.

Chouhan’s style of functioning had also led to growing dissent in the state unit, according to sources. However, the CM had kept his MLAs in good humour, and with the MLAs on his side, the central leadership had been reluctant to overhaul the state unit.

“The central leadership removed Anandiben Patel in Gujarat after getting negative feedback, why can’t they do it in MP? They are waiting and watching while the cadre is feeling demoralised,” said a senior party leader.

However, there are others who believe Chouhan still commands a lot of power, and that two bypolls can’t decide the fate of the assembly polls.

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