Shivraj Singh Chouhan needed 110 days to put ministry in place but his tight-rope walk continues

BJP’s image suffered a serious dent when Madhya Pradesh CM took 110 days to put his ministry in pace. Now out of favour of central leaders, he had to fall back on RSS to placate the factions

Shivraj Singh Chouhan needed 110 days to put ministry in place but his tight-rope walk continues

Chandrakant Naidu

Three and a half months, or 110 days to be precise, after wresting power in Madhya Pradesh, BJP has finally managed to give a shape to the ministry in the state. But BJP’s image has suffered a huge dent in the process.

The grass-root workers, who sweated to build the organisation brick-by-brick, have lost out to defectors. Jyotiraditya Scindia expectedly managed to get key departments to his supporters. Scindia’s top loyalist Tulsi Silawat retained the water resources department. The others in the camp have been handed revenue, transport, health, women and child development, industries, water resources, food and civil supplies and public health engineering. All these departments function on the ground and have connect with voters. The idea is to help the defectors win the by-elections caused by their resignation.

As many as 25 constituencies will be required to hold by-elections. The state also has 14 non-MLAs as ministers. The real test would lie in convincing the voters during the by elections. The party will have to sweat it out in the GwaliorChambal region that will see contests for 16 out of 25 seats

With the budget session just a week away the government had been without a finance minister. The mantle has finally fallen on Chouhan loyalist Jagdish Devda. The BJP’s finance minister in the previous regime Jayant Malaiya has lost out after many years leaving a vacuum in the party.

Meaty portfolios remained the bone of contention for 12 days after the new ministers were sworn in. Never in the past did the BJP have to dither for so long before a ministry was formed.

A three-way contest panned out for key portfolios. First the Scindia flock that accounts for 42 per cent of the ministry; second, senior leaders from the original BJP who have been wondering why they should make sacrifices for the turncoats, and third, the group of Chouhan supporters, who ended up paying the heaviest price for toppling the Congress government.

Chouhan knew the Central leadership was not generously disposed towards him. It was the RSS that stood by him. On the face of it the ministry seems to have struck a balance among the three groups. For its large presence, the Scindia faction will control a little less than 27 per cent of the overall budget in the state.

Chief Minister Chouhan will hold all the departments not allocated including general administration, public relations, civil aviation, and Narmada Valley development. This indicates that there could still be room to accommodate few more Chouhan supporters in the ministry.

Hours after joining BJP, former Congress MLA Pradyuman Singh Lodhi was made the chairman of the Civil Supplies Corporation. He will hold the rank of cabinet minister. The pro-tem Speaker promptly accepted his resignation as Congress MLA on Sunday and Badamalehra seat was declared vacant.

Rumblings have begun in the party over the way the BJP is embracing defectors from the Congress. Former minister Ajay Bishnoi, who failed to make it to the ministry, was critical of the quid pro quo in offering Pradyuman Singh and Pradeep Jaiswal, an Independent MLA, cabinet minister’s ranks. “The government is secure, why are such positions being offered to them?” asked Bishnoi.

What is evident is the waning influence of Chouhan. Narottam Mishra who had in the previous BJP regime struck up a good understanding with Chouhan and had become his trouble-shooter, appears to have switched sides.

The RSS has had to intervene in the tussle between the central leaders and Chouhan. The key mediators from RSS are B L Santosh, Suhas Bhagat and Vinay Sahasrabuddhe, who is RSS point person in the BJP as national vice-president.

Chouhan visited Mihsra’s home to seek his cooperation. However, In the first cabinet meeting after allocation of portfolios Chouhan expressed his displeasure over the home ministry’s functioning by pointing to growing crime. Mishra must have got his message.

The government’s failure to deal with the Corona pandemic despite all optics and jazzy announcements have also put fear in the mind of the BJP candidates.

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