Missing in action: Chouhan not BJP’s face in Maihar by-poll

  • Rahul Noronha, Hindustan Times, Bhopal
  • Updated: Feb 05, 2016 19:04 IST
BJP workers click selfies with chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan at the party’s state office in Bhopal on Thursday. (Mujeeb Faruqui/ Hindustan Times)

Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan seems to have changed his strategy for campaigning in the by-election for the Maihar assembly seat.

Missing in Maihar – as seen in the previous by-elections for the Garoth assembly seat and the Ratlam-Jhabua Lok Sabha seat–is the slogan that “it was Shivraj Singh Chouhan who was contesting and not the party candidate and by voting for the party candidate, people are in fact electing the CM from the constituency, who would then take care of it”.

Also missing is the intensity seen in previous by-elections campaigns. The CM has not visited Maihar after BJP candidate Narayan Tripathi filed his nomination on January 27. Chouhan is expected to campaign in the assembly constituency on February 10 and 11 – the last two days for campaigning – unless there is a change in his programme.

Sources said that during the Ratlam-Jhabua Lok Sabha by-polls, the CM had gone along with his previous strategy of projecting himself as the face of the campaign.

After the BJP lost the by-polls–which was seen as a barometer of the ruling BJP’s popularity amidst a growing farm crisis and a devastating explosion that killed 80 people in Petlawad–the opposition Congress began wondering “if it was a sign of the CM’s waning popularity”.

Sources said the BJP after the loss “had decided to avoid making the CM the face of the campaign in the next by-elections”.

“This is the risk the CM has to take”

“Shivraj Singh Chouhan should treat the Maihar by-polls like any CM should treat a by-election in his state,” said political analyst Girija Shankar.

“Politics is fraught with risks and in case the CM is projected as the face of the campaign and the BJP loses, there is bound to be questioning (about his popularity) but if the CM is not projected and the BJP wins, then the message that goes out is that he is not indispensable,” he said.

Residents in Maihar pointed out that the banners and posters have other BJP leaders on them, including former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee more than the CM–something not witnessed in previous by-elections in the state.

“The designing of banners and posters is done on inputs by given local leaders. It is their call who to place where,” said a senior state BJP leader, who asked not to be named.

Karnawat, Thete postpone plan to campaign against BJP

Suspended IAS officer Shashi Karnawat on Thursday said she had postponed her plan to campaign against the BJP in the Maihar assembly by-poll, saying she hoped chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan would do justice to them.

In a joint statement, IAS officer Ramesh Thete and Karnawat, who blamed the state government for allegedly victimising them, said they took the decision after detailed discussions with finance minister Jayant Malaiya and Lal Singh Arya.

CM holds meeting ahead of PM visit

Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan on Thursday chaired a meeting with BJP leaders ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s proposed visit on February 18.

Modi will attend a farmer’s convention at Sherpur village in Sehore district to express gratitude for the crop insurance scheme announced recently.

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