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Chauhan’s national hopes dashed

The constitution of the Rajnath Singh team has evoked mixed reactions in Madhya Pradesh. There were high hopes in the camp of the Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chauhan that he will find a place in the Parliamentary Board of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). His followers used to feel elated whenever his name was mentioned along with that of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi. Among others, BJP stalwarts like L K Advani, would also refer to Chauhan, whenever tributes were paid to Narendra Modi, as a competent chief minister.

The tone and tenor of Advani and his likes suggested that besides Modi, Chauhan will also be considered while choosing the BJP’s Prime Ministerial candidate. Naturally, when the final list of the Parliamentary Board members was announced, disappointment was writ large in the Chauhan camp. While there was disappointment in chief minister’s camp, there was celebration among the followers of Uma Bharti and Prabhat Jha.

In fact, the disappointment in the CM’s camp turned into virtual despair when Uma Bharati and Prabhat Jha, now arch rivals of Chauhan, were given key positions in the newly-constituted the BJP working committee. Both Uma Bharati and Prabhat Jha have been made vice-presidents.

After ensuring massive victory of the BJP in the 2003 Vidhan Sabha elections, Uma Bharati could enjoy the fruits of power only for a few months. After that, she was removed as the chief minister because of a criminal case pending against her in Karnataka. While removing her from the chief ministership, she was assured that she would be reinstated after she is acquitted by the court. She was also assured that Babulal Gaur, who replaced her, was only a stop-gap arrangement.

But after a few months, in September 2005, Babulal Gaur made way for Shivraj Singh Chauhan. At this stage, Uma Bharati lost the hope that she would get the top job back. She felt cheated and after sometime, left the BJP and formed her own party. Her relations with the BJP leaders, including Shivraj Singh Chauhan, turned bitter. She became a real threat to the stability of the Shivraj Singh ministry. Her party ‘Bharatiya Janshakti’ even fielded its candidates in the 2008 Vidhan Sabha elections. However, they did not fare well.

She, subsequently, dissolved the newly-formed party and later joined the BJP. Meanwhile, a section of the BJP leadership took initiative to normalise relations with her. When the UP elections were announced, BJP leadership involved her in the election campaign for the Vidhan Sabha. She was also nominated as BJP candidate from one of the constituencies in UP, bordering MP, and she won the polls.

This gave a clear indication that she has been told not to meddle in the party affairs in MP. She adhered to this advice, both in letter and in spirit. But all of a sudden, she has been named vice-president of the BJP. Her elevation to the central stage has become a cause for concern for the state leaders, including Shivraj Singh Chauhan. Her elevation was celebrated in the state. The day, on which her appointment was announced, she was in Bhopal. A number of her followers formed a beeline to great her on her appointment as vice-president. So far, her followers in MP were maintaining a low-profile. Her appointment as vice-president has emboldened them to come out in the open. Only future will let us know whether she and her followers continue to maintain low-profile or whether they will start taking interest in the state politics.

Another matter of concern for Chauhan is the appointment of Prabhat Jha as one of the vice-presidents in the Rajnath Singh’s Jumbo team. Till the end of the last year, Jha was the President of MP BJP. Before the end of his term, he was given the impression that he will continue to hold the job. He was confident that the Central leadership and the Chief Minister Chauhan had already decided to retain him as the state chief of the party. But when the official announcement came, he was shocked to learn that instead of giving another term, he has been replaced by Narendra Tomar.

He felt humiliated and could not hide his anger. He came out with a very strong reaction. He said that the decision to sack him was kept as closely-guarded a secret as the atomic explosion at Pokhran. Among others, he blamed the chief minister for not giving him a second term. Thus he left MP in a state of agony. It is claimed that Suresh Soni, a RSS stalwart, who acts as a bridge between the BJP and RSS, wanted Jha to continue as the state president. But Soni’s support was ignored.

Perhaps, the Central leadership realised that something should be done to assuage the hurt feelings of Jha. Soni again lent his support and succeeded in installing Jha in the team of Rajnath Singh. Though Jha hails from Bihar but he has succeeded in building his base in the party in MP. He has held some or the other position in the party in MP doe long. He was elected to the Rajya Sabha from the state and perhaps to assuage his feelings, he was named Vice-President.

Like Uma Bharati, Jha’, elevation was hailed by a powerful section of the state party. This again is a matter of concern for Shivraj Singh Chauhan. Party high command may ask both Uma Bharati and Prabhat Jha to keep away from MP politics. But there is no way to control their followers. Thus, Chauhan, who was not facing any challenge in the state party, will now have to contend with two powerful rivals – Jha and Uma.

A watch has to be kept on the activities of Uma Bharati and Prabhat Jha’s followers. The possibility of them destabilising Chauhan on the eve of the election is not being ruled out. At least, his opponents will try to ensure that he does not monopolise the selection of candidates for the ensuing  Vidhan Sabha polls, due eight months from now. (IPA)
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