New Delhi: Shivraj Singh Chouhan will be sworn in as the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh for the fourth time Monday night, after the BJP elected him as its leader in a meeting of the legislature party.
Chouhan was considered a popular chief minister over his three terms and was also the face of the BJP in the 2018 assembly elections, when the party fell just short of a majority. The swearing-in is scheduled to take place at Raj Bhavan in Bhopal at 9pm.
The decision to hold the swearing-in Monday itself was taken in the wake of the spread of the coronavirus, to ensure a government is in place to take preventive measures, a senior BJP told ThePrint.
Chouhan told reporters: “Soon after taking oath, I will head straight to the mantralaya. We have to tackle spread of coronavirus in the state. This is our priority.”
Even the legislature party meeting was held via video-conferencing — with MLAs joining in from the BJP office in Bhopal, and central observers Arun Singh and Vinay Sahasrabuddhe joining online.
Kamal Nath had resigned as chief minister last Friday ahead of a Supreme Court-mandated floor test after 22 Congress leaders, including six ministers, resigned from the assembly. These 22 leaders are considered close to Jyotiraditya Scindia, the former Union minister who quit the Congress and joined the BJP this month.
Why Chouhan was picked again
The senior BJP leader quoted above said despite having a number of other contenders, including former minister Narottam Mishra and senior BJP leader Narendra Singh Tomar, the party chose to stick with Chouhan as it will need to ensure a good performance in the bypolls for 24 seats. Of the 230 assembly seats, two are vacant owing to deaths of incumbent MLAs.
“The decision is not surprising, as in Madhya Pradesh, Chouhan is seen as a leader who can ensure the BJP’s win in bypolls. He has mass appeal and connect with the people which is crucial to win bypolls,” another leader said.
The 22 MLAs who resigned have all joined the BJP, and are likely to be fielded by the party from their old seats.
“Taking the support of 22 Congress MLAs is a big gamble that the party has taken. Though Scindia has also assured that it is his responsibility, but their win on a BJP ticket in six months is important to ensure the stability of the government,” the first leader quoted above said.
The Election Commission is likely to announce the bypoll dates once the coronavirus outbreak is over.