To retain or not to retain. The dilemma for the ruling BJP in Madhya Pradesh couldn’t have been more acute as the demand for Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s resignation gets shriller by the day in the wake of an FIR being filed against him and his wife for alleged corruption.
The BJP can ill-afford to change the CM a fourth time (after Uma Bharti and Babulal Gaur) in the last leg of the assembly election race.
Nor can it afford the political cost of projecting a ‘stigmatised’ chief minister in the run up to the poll.
Much as the chief minister might like the world to believe that he is “paying the price for honesty”, his “victimization” has in no way lessened the moral predicament of the party.
So, speculation is rife about his future.
The moot question being asked is: will the BJP wait till submission of the Lokayukta’s report to the special judge before December 14 for any action against Chouhan?
What if the Lokayukta report finds a fit case for prosecution of the chief minister?
BJP sources admitted that the party is veering round to the view that though the FIR has damaged the chief minister and, by extension, the ruling party, his resignation would be even more damaging.
Thus, the party would rather go on a counter-offensive, pointing out how several leaders of the UPA and Congress are also holding office despite being charge-sheeted.
Political sources also indicated that cases against Congress leaders, particularly Digvijay Singh and state party unit chief Subhash Yadav, would be cited to dilute the offensive against the chief minister.
“Many charge-sheeted politicians are in the government both at the Centre and in the states. We are of the opinion that the so-called scam has not damaged Chouhan’s reputation in public that much,” said a top BJP functionary.
Sources said legal options are also being explored to help the beleaguered chief minister come out of the imbroglio. Senior party leaders and lawyers Arun Jaitley or Ravishankar Prasad would be consulted in this connection, they added.
Meanwhile, a rumour did the rounds in political circles that Uma Bharti called on former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, following registration of the FIR against Chouhan, but her close aide Prahlad Patel denied such am meeting taking place.