He may have led the BJP to a resounding victory in the last assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh in November 2008 but chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has enough reasons to worry about his political future.
With assembly elections due in the state around October this year and the Lok Sabha polls about a year away, Chouhan has not only been glossed over by his party’s central leadership for a national role but also has to contend with rivals in the state.
On March 31, when BJP president Rajnath Singh announced his team for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, the party’s “second-most favourite” chief minister, Chouhan, Rajnath, failed to make it to the BJP’s parliamentary board while Gujarat strongman Narendra Modi was in and former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Uma Bharti became a national vice-president.
And though Rajnath later said the only vacant seat in the BJP’s highest decision-making body went to the “senior” chief minister, Modi, a party leader told HT, “There is no hard and fast rule that the parliamentary board’s size cannot be expanded.”
“If in the coming days Modi dominates the party apparatus — considering his style of functioning — then it might be even more difficult for Chouhan to find a national role. That is our chief minister’s bigger worry,” the leader pointed out.
Said another party leader, “Why would the central BJP leaders like to see Chouhan as prime ministerial material when they themselves are in the race? If they are giving space to Modi, it’s not by choice but by compulsion.”
If that is Chouhan’s fate at the national level, the prospects are not particularly encouraging for him at the state level either. Several BJP leaders — including ministerial colleagues such as Kailash Vijayvargiya, Gopal Bhargava, Vijay Shah, Narottam Mishra and Anoop Mishra — are eyeing the CM’s post eagerly. They will never come out in the open against Chouhan but may try to embarrass him in a crucial election year. And there are strong possibilities that these leaders will forge links with the anti-Chouhan brigade in Delhi.
Against all these odds, the biggest thing going for Chouhan is his economic report card. Under him, Madhya Pradesh leads all other states in the agricultural growth rate of 18% and gross state domestic product growth rate at 10% in 2012-13, according to the Central Statistics Office report.
Besides, there is no open challenge to his leadership for now and he’s the party mascot for the upcoming assembly polls. As Chouhan told HT recently, “My soul and being is in this state. MP is now like a plane that’s taking off and I can’t leave it mid-flight.” But the flight, it seems, might face some turbulence now.