A Year Full Of Challenges, Redemption And Aggression
A year ago, following a fortnight of political upheaval, Mama aka Shivraj Singh Chouhan was sworn in as the Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister on March 23, after 22 Congress MLA rebelled and joined hands with the Bharatiya Janata Party.
Back in action after 15 months, Chouhan did every bit to prove himself a different version of himself as he had promised during the bypolls, which followed his coronation.
As he returned, the State by then was gripped by Covid-19 virus and resentment was all time high in a disciplined BJP as ‘outsiders’ made a sudden entry sidelining seniors who had devoted years and decades in the party organisation.
Chouhan threw every bit of his political experience to bail himself out of the situation in subsequent months.
Quelling rebellion, he ensured that his party won 19 seats in the Assembly bypolls and touched the majority mark with comfort. Having battled it out for a month alone, Chouhan had picked up five ministers in April and only got a full-fledged Cabinet in July last year.
As many believe, infighting and dissent was primarily responsible for this long gap in picking up ministerial colleagues. However, an amicable Shivraj gave way to a stern Chief Minister soon after the bypolls gave him the much-needed political space. Chouhan who in his major part of earlier governance bore the stigma of playing into the hands of bureaucrats, this time ensured that most of his trusted officers were kept at an arm’s length except for his old close aide Iqbal Singh Bains, who was appointed as the Chief Secretary.
During performance reviews, he did not hesitate in shunting and suspending slack officers who could not prove ‘up to the mark’. Even senior officers like collectors, SPs and municipal commissioners aren’t spared.
He has made his mood public on occasions especially during the annual budget. Speaking to the media on budgetary provisions, Chouhan made it clear that people think officers prepare the budget but let me make it clear that we (CM and ministers) have chalked out schemes and plans, none else.
He proved equally stern with criminals and mafia elements razing down illegal structures across the State, booking colonisers breach norms and lodging FIRs on adulteration mafia.
However, a spirited mining mafia in Gwalior-Chambal region too played his match attacking police, administrative and forest officers at will and even not lagging behind in forcefully snatching seized vehicles and machines from administration custody.
Chouhan sensing the situation has claimed that it’s a long fight ahead against the sand mafia. Liquor mafia too gave him a tough time amid demands for liquor ban.
Besides, an otherwise liberal Chouhan inclined towards RSS hardliner views by openly cracking down on love jihad through a legislation — MP Freedom of Religion Act, 2020 — which has harsher punishments for those alluring girls into conversion through marriage and other means.
He was again stern when Ram temple donation processions were attacked at many places including in Ujjain where the administration razed down a house used for pelting stone on the procession, hours after the incident. Madhya Pradesh under Shivraj also has promised a law on stone pelters shortly.
His Hindutva plank also has earned him a place among the BJP star campaigners in Assam and crucial West Bengal.
Politically, Chouhan had been engaged on many fronts.
To start with, he accommodated Jyotiraditya Scindia supporters in the Cabinet but meticulously left several others from the Scindia camp in the party organisation postings and political appointments. He, however, was seen with Scindia regularly and also with party’s State head VD Sharma to create an impression that all was well in the organisation and the government.
As the Congress party used a sympathy wave to empathise with Scindia over him missing a berth in the Union Cabinet, Shivraj was quick to summon Scindia and his close aide minister over a lunch in Bhopal recently where Scindia expressed solidarity with the Shivraj government.
Still, Shivraj has failed to get several of his loyalists placed in the party organisation.
However, his angered old cabinet colleagues and party men especially former CM Uma Bharti is still giving tough time politically. Bharti has cornered him significantly by demanding a liquor ban that too during times of cash crunch. Somehow CM Shivraj has managed to placate Bharti on the issue.
He somewhat has made a hostile opposition, i.e. the Congress keep a low profile which was quite evident in the seamless functioning in the Assembly in the just concluded budget session where the Congress with 90 plus MLAs could not pose much trouble for the ruling BJP.
On the economic front as well, Shivraj has already chalked out Atmanirbhar Madhya Pradesh roadmap for the overall economic development. He has also offered time bound goals to the various government departments.
Seeing his one-year rule, many believe that Shivraj Singh Chouhan despite having many challenges, not only made a thumping comeback in MP politics but also is making his ground for a long innings ahead.