Chandna C. Arora
Jolted out of his reverie after the BJP bosses drove home the rather curt, unstated message that he should focus on his re-election in Madhya Pradesh rather than aiming at a slot in the high-power BJP Parliamentary Committee, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has set about putting his house in order. What has added an air of urgency to his effort is a couple of survey reports painting a dismal picture of his party’s prospects in the elections slated for later this year.
Surveys conducted by private concerns from Delhi as well as reports gathered by state’s own intelligence network, have brought forth the alarming reality. According to the reports at least 20 ministers and 60 MLAs of the BJP government, could be losing the coming assembly elections in the state. The survey reports are in essence the report-card of the performance of various ministers and MLAs of the state.
It has not only unnerved sitting MLAs, but party stalwarts from the cabinet like Health Minister Narottam Mishra, Home Minister Uma Shankar Gupta, Industries Minister Kailash Vijaywargiya Women & Child Welfare Minister Ranjna Baghel, Minister for Water Resources Jayant Malaiya, Agriculture Minister Ramkrishna Kusmaria, Minister Medical Education Anup Mishra, Minister for Animal Husbandry Ajay Vishnoi, Speaker Ishwardas Rohani and ministers of state Hari Shankar Khatik, Narayan Singh Kushwah and Kanhaiyalal Agarwal are suddenly disturbed. So much so, that many have started looking for safer constituencies to fight their next election.
A ruling party, especially if it has ruled for two consecutive terms, is wary of the anti-incumbency element. This, and the fact, that during the last elections almost 60 MLAs won by the slim margin of one to three thousand votes, has left the bigwigs of MP BJP worried.
Wednesday onwards, with the report-card in hand, Chouhan has interacted with more than three dozen MLAs from Gwalior-Chambal, Rewa and Sagar Divisions. Marathon meetings have stretched from noon to late evenings. It was immediately dubbed as CM’s ‘one-on-one’ meeting with his MLAs by the local media.
Individually, the MLAs were given a run-down of their performance, inquired of the kind of political opponents they face, warned about four months left to improve performance where it lacked in quality, asked about what the government could do to improve their declining graph, instructed them to take the help of different schemes, and promised them support.
From five minutes to twenty, each MLA was grilled and given the ultimatum – perform or face consequences. The tag line was - another meeting on the same lines would be held after four months. And at that time there would be no ‘second chance’. Party sources claimed many of the MLAs that walked out after the ‘one-to-one’ meeting looked ashen.
Two days spanning marathon meetings, lots of warnings, followed by a ‘dinner’ at the CM’s for officers from IAS, IPS and IFS cadres of Madhya Pradesh. It could only be the exercise of a CM who now wants to work overtime, to make up for the time he lost day-dreaming of a slot in the National Executive.
As if on cue, the BJP state president Narendra Singh Tomar has instructed party-men and sitting party MLAs observe BJP foundation day on April 6th as Vikas Diwas (Development Day) to illustrate the developmental policies, schemes and achievements of the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government and to remind their constituents of all the jobs party has done for the state in the past nine years.
Says Tomar, "On the party’s foundation day, every single work that has been done in the past nine years by the state government through panchayats will be conveyed to the people. At least one development program will be initiated on that very day in each of the 230 assembly seats.''
Tomar informed his partymen, "We specifically need to woo the strong Dalit vote bank in the state. And for this purpose the BJP will observe Ambedkar Jayanti for three days. The party will hold programs at each district and at committee levels.''
While the Madhya Pradesh BJP was conducting its pre-election surveys, the state Congress too has collected the same information through private companies and party workers to assess BJP’s electoral status. According to a senior leader in the state PCC office, the party has chalked-out 80 seats with BJP MLAs which may prove to be easy victories for the Congress. Though the senior leader refused to divulge the names of these constituencies, party sources argued that it is here where the Congress will strengthen its electioneering exercise.
Congress leaders argued that rampant corruption, lack of public relation between MLAs and people, a deteriorating law and order situation and BJP men turning 'thekedars' and event managers for every government program, were the main reasons of the voter turning away from the party. State Spokesperson Manak Agarwal explained, “Voters are no longer foolish. In Bhopal, for example, voters have noted that any program whether cultural or political, was a money-making opportunity for select BJP men. People have understood that BJP leaders have turned contractors, suppliers and event managers for government functions.''
Whether it was the survey report highlighting the waning of the BJP brilliance, or the resounding glee from the Congress camp, or Shivraj Singh not being taken in as BJP National Executive member, the result is that the Madhya Pradesh CM is back in office – in body and in spirit.