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In Madhya Pradesh, a new low in political opportunism

On Tuesday, Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan conferred minister of state rank on five Hindu religious leaders. This is a clear case of vote bank politics.

editorials Updated: Apr 05, 2018 18:32 IST
Shivraj Singh Chouhan,Madhya Pradesh,Narmada Parikrama
Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan in Bhopal(PTI)

On Tuesday, Madhya Pradesh chief minister, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, conferred the rank of minster of state on five Hindu religious leaders. The move made ring hollow a statement Chouhan had previously made when he had said: “Some people are doing politics for votebank...one must refrain from doing these things.” But political opportunism is a two-way street. Some of the leaders, in turn, made haste to repay Chouhan’s faith in them by immediately dropping their opposition to his Narmada Sewa Yatra and his tree planting drive on the banks of the Narmada. “There is no need for it now,” said one of the leaders, who is known as Computer Baba, ostensibly for his phenomenal memory. Further, he said he would work with the government to generate conservation awareness. The Baba’s U turn appeared all the more sharp, given that he had earlier been marching alongside Congress leader, Digvijaya Singh, who is walking 3,400 km to complete a Narmada parikrama.

Even by the somewhat staggering standards of political opportunism in India, Chouhan’s move takes the cake, the plate and the cherry on the top. First place, this is a blatant mixing of politics and religion. It is clearly with an eye on the state elections which will be held in seven months and to bolster his less than impressive track record in his current term. Secondly, it makes a mockery of the efforts of those who have fought and won elections and have earned the position of minister of state. The leaders who have been handed this position have no experience of administration or, indeed, conservation. This will also open the floodgates for similar demands from other religious leaders all of whom claim that they are engaged in social service.

The truth is that these leaders have huge followings which the BJP hopes to gain from in the coming elections. Computer Baba had earlier approached the Aam Aadmi Party, which had denied him a Rajya Sabha ticket. This also diminishes the religious leaders who claim to be above worldly blandishments. Their volte face on the Chouhan government’s alleged misdeeds clearly shows how hollow this claim is. It is no one’s contention that religious leaders stay away from politics. Yogi Adityanath is an example of a successful transition from a mahant to a chief minister. But he has, to his credit, stood for and won many elections. But to simply be conferred a ministership and then speak on behalf of people is disingenuous. Both parties in equal measure exemplify a new low for political opportunism in this country.

First Published: Apr 05, 2018 18:32 IST