The nearly seven-day-long farmers’ protest in Madhya Pradesh, which led to the death of six people and destruction of public and private property worth crores, is being attributed to the state bureaucrats’ imperviousness to the problems being faced by the farmers and their inability to convey to the Chief Minister that trouble was brewing. However, the political stature of Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has increased both in the state and in the BJP after he, without the intervention of the party’s central leadership, was able to contain the farmers’ protest. But the agitation has also shed light on his dependence on a group of five bureaucrats in particular.
These bureaucrats, according to multiple BJP leaders whom this correspondent spoke to, were one of the reasons why the administration was not able to gauge the mood of the disgruntled farmers.
“A group of four-five senior bureaucrats have become the eyes and ears of the CM. He believes them. These bureaucrats do not let the workers or leaders interact with the CM easily. We were aware that the farmers were angry, but the same could not be communicated to the CM until it was late because of the bureaucratic cordon around him,” a BJP MP alleged to The Sunday Guardian.
BJP leaders openly say that the state machinery was neither able to anticipate the trouble nor able to control it, and it was left to Chouhan, who is seen by the farmers as one of their own, to handle the crisis. The CM sat on a one-day fast, which ultimately led to tempers coming down.
“For seven days, the bureaucrats failed to control the rampaging crowd and it was not until the CM himself came out and spoke to them that they stopped. For three days following the firing on the protesters, no one was aware who gave the orders to shoot. This shows that the administration faltered. The same babus kept the CM in the dark and told him that the problem was a localized one and will subside in a day or two,” a Bhopal-based BJP spokesperson said.
According to political observers in the state, the recent incident has increased the value of “Brand Shivraj” in the political sphere. “He single-handedly contained the violence without the intervention of any help from the central leaders. Senior BJP leaders spoke to him and offered their cooperation, but Chouhan was confident that he would be able to douse the fire once he himself went out among the people. This episode has definitely increased the stature of Chouhan in the state,” a senior Bhopal-based journalist said.
Even though the Congress party led by vice president Rahul Gandhi, senior leaders Jyotiraditya Scindia, Kamal Nath and Digvijaya Singh made their presence felt by trying to visit Mandsaur, Chouhan was still able to contain the disturbance.
Bhopal-based BJP leaders stated that the party has no option but to contest the next year’s Assembly elections under the leadership of Chouhan. “His biggest plus point is that he has absolutely zero ego even now and that is what the voters see and appreciate. We have no other leader in the state who can match his popularity. If we have to win, we will have to contest the election under Chouhan only,” a senior BJP MP said.