Chouhan led from the front and did 39 rallies while campaigning in the bypolls.


New Delhi: Of the three Assembly bypolls and one Lok Sabha seat, the BJP in Madhya Pradesh won the lone Lok Sabha seat of Khandwa and two of the Assembly seats, Jobat and Prithvipur, while losing in Raigaon.

This 3-1 score, in favour of BJP, is being seen as a victory of Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan who led from the front and did at least 39 public rallies while campaigning. Apart from doing rallies, in an election where former Chief Minister Kamal Nath from Congress conducted 14 public rallies, the 61-year-old Chouhan significantly focused on engaging directly with the voters from the stage, taking action against alleged corrupt officers on the spot as demanded by the voters and staying at night in the homes of the voters.

This victory for Chouhan has come at the right time as there was speculation if he would be asked to resign, in consonance with the decision taken by the BJP leadership in other states like Gujarat, Karnataka, Uttarakhand and Assam. His detractors in the party, who want him to be replaced, say that the 16-year tenure of Chouhan (he became the CM for the first time in November 2005, replacing Babu Lal Gaur) has gone on for too long as a result of which the next generation leadership is not taking shape in the state. However, the recent results that came after the party’s defeat in the Damoh Assembly bypolls in May, has come as a shot in the arm for Chouhan.

The fact that the BJP fared poorly in Himachal Pradesh, the home state of party president Jagat Prakash Nadda, where it lost all the three Assembly and one Lok Sabha seats that went to polls, too is likely to discourage Nadda from moving ahead with replacing Chouhan.

Also, the BJP leadership will now focus on conducting the polls in Jammu and Kashmir and the forthcoming elections in five states, including the much important Uttar Pradesh. “The party’s attention will now shift to other pressing issues,” a Delhi-based party functionary said.

BJP state media incharge, Lokendra Parashar, told The Sunday Guardian that the party’s “stupendous” performance was a result of collective efforts put by the party, the CM and the PM. “This 3-1 victory has happened because of the work that our party has been doing to make the lives of the ‘have-nots’ more comfortable, it is the victory of the efforts that the CM has been putting to alleviate poverty in the state and it is the victory of the PM Modi’s dream of giving house to everyone under PM Awas Yojana,” Parashar said.

He strongly denied any reports of Chouhan being replaced. “There is not even discussion in the party circles about this topic. All this is WhatsApp university information which is getting circulated. There is no truth in it,” he said.

According to other BJP leaders, “Chouhan knows how to connect with the people; he is easily our primary crowd puller and has an image of the person next door. All this ensures that we do well in the polls. However, we do not have any other leader who can match his popularity or humility. And this issue cannot be addressed until Chouhan is given another responsibility or he himself identifies 2-3 young leaders who will be leading the party in his absence and he grooms them. All of his ‘competitors’ are now either side-lined or have no desire left of leading the party or emerging as an alternative to Chouhan,” a Rajya Sabha member told The Sunday Guardian.

Meanwhile in Congress, many are pushing for giving a more prominent role to the 35-year-old Jaivardhan Singh, the party’s two-time MLA from Raghogarh. The leaders who are pushing for giving Singh, who is the son of former CM Digvijaya Singh, a bigger responsibility in the state, argue that the Congress needs a young face to present against Chouhan, especially to attract the young voters. “He is experienced now, is down to earth and has pleasing demeanour and does not get into intra-party politics. The party will benefit greatly if he is given a more prominent responsibility in the state”, a member of team Rahul told The Sunday Guardian.