Shivraj Singh Chouhan cashes in on Vajpayee's goodwill in poll-bound Madhya Pradesh; Congress terms it opportunism

The overwhelming emotional outpouring that India witnessed since the death of former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee may actually work in favour of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the poll-bound states. Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has been quick to seize the opportunity, making a slew of announcements in memory of the veteran politician after he died on 16 August.

Chouhan is facing anti-incumbency and sudden belligerence of the Congress months before the state, which the BJP has governed for 15 years, is slated to hold Assembly elections. In this context, the image of the BJP stalwart, who belonged to Gwalior in Madhya Pradesh and was loved by all, could act as a blessing for the chief minister and help him sail through the polls.

Shivraj Singh Chouhan with Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Image Courtesy: Twitter/Shivraj Singh Chouhan

Shivraj Singh Chouhan with Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Image Courtesy: Twitter/Shivraj Singh Chouhan

Among the announcements Chouhan made in memory of Vajpayee were three awards to be named after the politician, who held a tall stature in Indian polity owing to his statesmanship. The awards he announced are worth Rs 5 lakh each, one for poetry, one for journalism and the last for good work in administration.

He also said that the Habibganj Railway Station in Bhopal will be renamed after Vajpayee. Textbooks in Madhya Pradesh's schools will also include Vajpayee's biography from the next academic session, Chouhan said.

After Vajpayee's funeral, the chief minister had said that condolence meetings for the former prime minister will be organised at all the BJP's district headquarters from 22 August to 25 August and at all development blocks and gram panchayats between 25 August and 30 August.

The Madhya Pradesh government has decided to immerse Vajpayee's ashes in all prominent rivers of the state, including the Narmada. Chouhan said the state will build two memorials in Vajpayee's memory in Bhopal and Gwalior to showcase his works, writings — especially his poetry — speeches, and memorabilia.

"As part of the Kalash Yatra, Atal Smriti Sabha (Atal memorial meetings) will be held in villages. People will pay obeisance and will be told about Vajpayee ji's life and achievements to keep his memory alive. Our party's village units are making preparations for it," a Jabalpur-based senior BJP worker said.

Vajpayee had a deep connection with Gwalior as he was born in the city and completed his education there. The Madhya Pradesh government has planned to transform Gorki Government Higher Secondary School in Gwalior, where Vajpayee had studied from Class 6 to Class 8, into a "centre of educational excellence". This centre would have smart classes, a planetarium and a museum.

"Is there any harm if any political party uses an opportunity to name its initiatives after the recipient of the Bharat Ratna like Atal ji ahead of elections? If the initiatives are for people's welfare, then they should be welcomed. The objective should be aimed at development, welfare and positivity. And if these aims are not achieved, then it is wrong," Anil Saumitra, Madhya Pradesh BJP convener and media relations in charge, told Firstpost.

The Madhya Pradesh government has also decided to build world-class libraries and incubation centres for start-ups dedicated to Vajpayee in the seven smart cities being developed in the state — Bhopal, Indore, Gwalior, Jabalpur, Ujjain, Sagar and Satna.

However, the Opposition Congress sees this move as "opportunism".

"Atal ji had been ill and bed-ridden for the last nine years. How many times did Shivraj Singh Chouhan visit him during his many visits to Delhi? By naming awards, renaming the Habibganj Railway Station in Bhopal and many other initiatives after Vajpayee, the Madhya Pradesh chief minister has been trying to gain mileage in the upcoming state elections," Congress spokesperson from Bhopal, Ravi Saxena, told Firstpost.

He added that even if just the last five years of the BJP's 15-year rule in the state was considered, "the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government did nothing on the development front". "Instead, there has been a rise in corruption in Madhya Pradesh. This is nothing but opportunism," he said.

Saumitra refuted Saxena's charge, saying: "Lots of development has taken place in the state in the last 15 years in various sectors. As the latest announcements will add to it, and it is meant for people's welfare, it should not be politicised for the sake of politics."

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Updated Date: Aug 21, 2018 10:05:36 IST

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