BJP appoints Rakesh Singh as Madhya Pradesh unit chief; untainted image, influence in Mahakoshal region won him job

The occasion of Akshaya Tritiya, which is believed to bring good luck, seems to have truly proven auspicious for BJP's Lok Sabha MP from Jabalpur. Giving rest to speculations, the party leadership appointed Rakesh Singh as president of Madhya Pradesh BJP on Wednesday.

Till Tuesday, rumours in the political circles suggested that the BJP was considering to bring in Narottam Mishra, minister for public relations in Shivraj Singh Chouhan's cabinet, to steer the party in the crucial north Indian state ahead of elections. However, Mishra's selection would have made it extremely tough for the state government to deal with Dalit ire, as Mishra is a prominent Brahmin face.

 BJP appoints Rakesh Singh as Madhya Pradesh unit chief; untainted image, influence in Mahakoshal region won him job

File image of Rakesh Singh. News18

Moreover, he was disqualified by the Election Commission for the 'paid news' controversy. The BJP's central leadership seems to have sensed these difficulties and Singh's name was finally chosen at a late night meeting of the BJP’s core group. Singh's appointment is being seen as an attempt to strengthen the organisation at the grassroots in Madhya Pradesh ahead of Assembly and the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

A three-term MP and party's chief whip in Lok Sabha, 55-year-old Singh has vast organisational experience. Besides having a strong influence and command over party workers in the Mahakoshal region (Jabalpur division) of the state, Singh has an unblemished image.

The Mahakoshal region in central Madhya Pradesh comprises Jabalpur, Narsinghpur, Katni, Mandla, Seoni, Dindori and Chhindwara districts.

Singh is responsible for several developmental works in Jabalpur, including infrastructure projects, expansion of Jabalpur airport, and development of tourism in the region.

Singh has matured as a politician, starting from a student leader, transitioning to a district level worker and then going on to became an MP in 2004. He has been instrumental in bringing development in Mahakoshal region. However, people of the region are also upset with him as the railway's broad-gauge project that was initiated during Atal Bihari Vajpayee government hasn't yet been completed.

According to party insiders, Singh enjoys backing of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and BJP chief Amit Shah, besides sharing a strong camaraderie with Union Minister and former two-time state BJP president Narendra Singh Tomar.

"It's a big day for me. I'm obliged to BJP leadership and Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan," Singh said immediately after his appointment.

Singh has replaced Khandwa Lok Sabha MP, Nand Kumar Singh Chauhan as the state unit president.

Chauhan's tenure as state chief, especially the last few months were marred with large-scale agitation by farmers and the Dalits. Moreover, word was that the party was unable to curtail dissent amongst the ground-level party workers.

Moreover, a change of guard was long over due. Chauhan apparently, fell out of favour with the central leadership, owing to his bizarre public statements and the party's loss in the by-elections. Recently, Chauhan caused a major embarrassment for the party when he claimed that Pakistani was behind the Kathua gang rape incident.

Meanwhile, former Madhya Pradesh chief minister and veteran BJP leader Kailash Joshi sought to play down the appointment. He said, "A change of party chief doesn't have anything to do with increase or decrease in seats during election. Sometimes, a driver is replaced to give a better push to a vehicle."

Singh, who began his political career from his student days in the Government Science College, Jabalpur, is known as a RSS man within the party. He had been involved in social and public movements like 'Jal Yatra' aiming at bringing awareness among common people for conservation and preservation of water, and 'Ghar Chalo-Gaon Chalo' campaign, which he started as district head for Jabalpur rural.

Besides his organisational skills, Singh's experience as chief whip of party in the Lower House, and chairman, Parliamentary Standing Committee for Coal and Steel, gives him a strong bio to take the party's reigns in the poll-bound state. His training from his days in the RSS will also come in handy for him to consolidate and mobilise party workers at grassroots.

"Madhya Pradesh Assembly election in 2018 and Lok Sabha polls in 2019 are a challenge for us. We'll again form government in the state. In 2019, the party will win with a majority, and get a large number of seats from MP," he said.

According to political observers, the BJP high command struck a fine balance by bringing in Singh, as his influence in Mahakoshal, Bundelkhand (Sagar, Damoh, Tikamgarh, Chhattarpur, Datia, etc) and Bagelkhand (Rewa, Satna, Shahdol, Sidhi and Singrauli) would prove beneficial for the party during forthcoming elections.

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Updated Date: Oct 26, 2018 18:11:32 IST