Bhopal: Madhya Pradesh Women and Child Development Minister Imarti Devi’s suggestion to include eggs in anganwadi meals has put Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, a strict vegetarian, in an awkward position because he had once famously declared that as long as he was at the helm of affairs he will not let that happen.
Chouhan’s assertion had come in 2015 when the BJP had a comfortable majority in the assembly unlike now when the saffron party is in power only because of rebellion by former Congressman Jyotiraditya Scindia that brought down the Kamal Nath government in March this year.
Devi, previously with the Congress, held the same portfolio in the previous Congress government that lasted for 15 months between December 2018 and March 2020.
Her proposal is, however, not new as the minister had suggested this earlier too. Her proposal to serve eggs to anganwadi children, and pregnant and lactating women in 89 tribal blocks of the state had received administrative sanction by November 2019. But before the proposal could see the light of day, the Congress government fell.
Devi had pushed for the proposal arguing that serving protein-rich eggs will help fight malnutrition that is rampant in the tribal blocks.
“Those who don’t consume eggs will be given a substitute. Nobody will be forced to consume eggs against their wishes,” the minister had said then.
Then in Opposition, the BJP had opposed the proposal calling it interference in religious beliefs, arguing that there were better substitutes.
Two months after she took oath as the minister — now as part of the BJP government — Devi has reiterated her suggestion.
Speaking to TV reporters Tuesday, Devi said: “It will not be compulsory for anyone. Those who don’t eat eggs will be given fruits.”
The minister, who will have to win a by-election to validate her stay in office, is yet to send a formal proposal to the government in this regard.
ThePrint reached Devi via phone calls, but she was unreachable until the publication of this report.
‘Govt to keep people’s sentiments in mind’
BJP spokesman Deepak Vijayvargiya said the government will consider people’s sentiments while taking a final decision in the matter.
“The minister has freedom to give her suggestions but I think the government will keep people’s sentiments in mind while taking a final decision,’’ he said.
Former chief minister Kamal Nath’s media coordinator Narendra Saluja said it remains to be seen if the BJP will oppose the proposal or do a “somersault”.
“The minister has spoken about serving eggs to anganwadi children. The BJP had opposed the proposal in the past. Let’s see how the party responds. Having formed a government with the help of defectors, will the BJP now do a somersault or oppose it?’’ he asked.
CM, a hardcore vegetarian
CM Chouhan is yet to respond to the suggestion from the minister.
A hardcore vegetarian, Chouhan had shot down a proposal to include either egg curry or boiled eggs in anganwadi meals on a pilot basis in Mandla, Alirajpur and Hoshangabad districts in 2015.
When the proposal was brought to his notice, he had reportedly lost his cool, questioning its rationale when he had publicly spoken against it.
But when he speaks in public, the senior BJP leader does not articulate why he is against eggs. He says milk and bananas, or other fruits, are better.