Shivraj Chouhan mum on rumours of shifting to Centre
Madhya Pradesh Chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan refused to comment on rumours that he would be moving to New Delhi, possibly to take charge as the country’s next defence minister.
When asked by journalists on the sidelines of a programme he attended Tuesday night, Chouhan refused to say anything on the same. Union finance minister Arun Jaitley currently holds additional charge of the defence ministry
But senior BJP leader Dr Hitesh Bajpai dismissed the speculation as ‘Holi gossip’ and said the party would again contest the assembly elections in the state under the leadership of Chouhan and would win.
Following the BJP’s massive victory in Uttar Pradesh assembly elections and Manohar Parrikar’s resignation as defence minister to return to Goa as chief minister, political and bureaucratic circles in Bhopal are agog with rumours that Chouhan might be shifted to the Centre as the next defence minister.
Some news portals fanned the speculations claiming Chouhan’s imminent move to Delhi while attributing the ‘news’ to ‘sources’.
This is not the first time such speculation is making the rounds. Ahead of the recent assembly election there were rumours that if the BJP won Uttar Pradesh, Prime Minister Narendra Modi would become stronger and he might ask Chouhan or Chhattisgarh chief minister Raman Singh to shift to the Centre as he would not like them to become stronger in the coming days.
Chouhan would be completing 12 years in office on November 28, 2017 and would have a fourth term as the CM if he leads the party to victory in the 2018 assembly elections. He already is longest serving chief minister in the state since taking charge on November 28, 2005 when the BJP replaced Babulal Gaur.
He has survived several challenges so far including corruption charges against him and his relations relating to Dumper scandal, Vyapam scam, illegal mining etc.
However, post-2014 Lok Sabha polls which saw party veteran LK Advani sidelined and emergence of Modi-Amit Shah as the new power centre in the party, Chouhan doesn’t find the sailing smooth, said a party leader willing not to be quoted.
According to him, the CM doesn’t enjoy a good rapport with Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah unlike his relationship with Advani who once thought Chouhan was a probable Prime Minister. To make matters worse, Chouhan’s bête noire in the party Kailash Vijayvargiya happens to be a close lieutenant of Shah and is the party’s national general secretary.
Party sources say if Chouhan has to be shifted to the Centre, then this is the time. For, if he leads the BJP to victory in 2018 which also looks probable now, given the weak Opposition in Madhya Pradesh, it would be difficult for Modi-Shah duo to shift him to the Centre given Chouhan’s further and strong claim on the post.