Both former BJP Chief Ministers have kept themselves confined to state politics.
New Delhi: Following the loss in the Assembly elections in their respective states of Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh in November 2018, former BJP chief ministers Raman Singh and Shivraj Singh Chouhan, are now biding their time. BJP insiders said that with the reconstitution of new team, including the reorganisation of the all-powerful parliamentary board and election to the Rajya Sabha, under J.P. Nadda to take place next month, these former CMs were waiting for new opportunities.
The youngest of the two, the 60-year-old Chouhan, who was made the in-charge of the BJP membership drive after the results of the MP Assembly election, has remained quite active in his state and has been taking on the Kamal Nath-led Congress government vociferously. Keeping alive his resolve of not moving to the Centre, Chouhan, who is a MLA from Budhni seat, has emerged as the most vociferous voice in Madhya Pradesh against Kamal Nath.
Chouhan recently slammed Kamal Nath after a bust of Shivaji was removed from a town in Chhindwara district.
More recently, the former CM had a closed door meeting with the newly appointed state president V.D. Sharma, who is seen as a man whose name was approved after taking the assent of Chouhan. The measure of Chouhan’s influence in the state, political observers said, in the new schemes of things under Sharma is likely to become visible after Sharma reconstitutes his new team, that was last rejigged in 2015.
It was after this meeting that Sharma, party sources said, has again started saying that Congress government was on a weak footing and it can fall any moment. Chouhan, who was among the most vociferous users of Twitter when he was the Chief Minister, has continued this passion and even now, uses the social media to attack the Congress or announce his future plans. His average tweets that include re-tweets per day hovers around 10-12.
Bhopal-based party observers said that Chouhan, whose name is being speculated for the Rajya Sabha, believes that the Congress government will not last for long and if he moves to the Centre, he will not be able to come back to state politics and hence has kept himself busy in state politics rather than moving to the Centre.
“Chouhan knows that he still has a lot of time. Right now, in the Centre, there are too many powerful leaders who may not allow Chouhan to flourish independently; hence, he is averse to moving to the Centre,” a Bhopal-based party leader said.
In neighbouring Chhattisgarh, one of the few “gentleman” leaders that the BJP has, Raman Singh, too, has kept himself confined to state politics and is giving more time to social obligations in the state. The 67-year-old Singh, who was the Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh three times, is a MLA from Rajnandgaon and a national vice president of the party. A trained Ayurveda doctor, Singh has been raising questions in the Assembly against the government policies of Bhupesh Baghel.
“He was never an ultra aggressive, loud leader. Following the loss in Chhattisgarh, he is active in his own way. The Assembly elections are four years away; he will be 71 by then and most probably he will no longer be a strong CM claimant then. If the party decides to send him to Rajya Sabha this time, well and good. If it doesn’t, then also there is no problem for him; he is enjoying his time as a MLA in the state,” a BJP spokesperson said.
Party leaders said that as of now, Singh’s focus was more on securing the career of his son, Abhishek, who was not given the ticket to contest the 2019 Lok Sabha election, despite winning the Rajnandgaon Lok Sabha seat comfortably in 2014. Delhi-based party leaders, adding to speculation, made an informed guess that Singh and Chouhan were appointed as party’s national vice presidents in January last year and it is unlikely that Nadda will replace them so soon from the said position. According to the constitution of the party, the BJP cannot have more than 15 vice-presidents, nine national general secretaries, 15 national secretaries and one general secretary (organisation). At present, there are 12 national vice-presidents, 13 national secretaries and eight national general secretaries. Party sources said that changes are likely to happen at the level of BJP parliamentary board as there are multiple vacancies in it after the untimely death of Sushma Swaraj, Ananth Kumar and Arun Jaitley. As of today, apart from Nadda, the other members of the board are Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh, Home Minister Amit Shah, Road Transport and Highways Minister Nitin Gadkari, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thawar Chand Gehlot and General Secretary (Organisation) B.L. Santosh.