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Mama Says 'Ram Ram': What Next for Shivraj as Mohan Yadav Takes Over MP?

"Shivraj already knew about his future," a former minister of his government told me.

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Who is Mohan Yadav?

The chief minister-designate of Madhya Pradesh (MP), after the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) swept the Assembly election, might be in the middle of an identity crisis. His appointment was announced on Monday by Haryana Chief Minister (CM) Manohar Lal Khattar, who is also one of the central observers of the BJP.

The move is a surprising one, keeping in mind the popularity of outgoing CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan in the heartland state that helped the party win the election. Incidentally, when Khattar's name was announced as the chief minister of the Haryana in 2014, many were equally surprised.

Clueless about Yadav, people have started searching about him on Google but cannot seem to fish out much.

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A Vocal and Hardcore Hindutva leader Close to the RSS

A little-known politician outside MP, Dr Yadav (MBA, LLB, and PhD) will be the 19th CM of the state. A three-time MLA (Member of Legislative Assembly), his only claim to fame is that he was the Higher Education Minister in Shivraj's cabinet in 2020.

Before that, he had worked as the chairman of the MP Tourism Development Corporation. And much before all this, in Ujjain, his native city, he was politically active with the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), which is the BJP’s student wing.

The 58-year-old politician, close to the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), is perceived to be a vocal and hardcore Hindutva leader. With Yadav at the helm of affairs, the RSS is expected to have, henceforth, more say in the state's governance.

It was anyway expected that an OBC (Other Backward Class) leader would be appointed as the CM to replace Shivraj. But there was hardly any inkling that the choice would be Mohan Yadav.

Sitting in one corner of the meeting hall where BJP legislators were waiting anxiously for the name of the new CM, Mohan Yadav appeared stunned when Shivraj proposed his name. Taken aback by the unexpected news, he even touched the former CM's feet. Sources, however, told me that Yadav had already been provided with a hint about the “big thing” when he was summoned to Delhi by BJP chief JP Nadda on 6 December.

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But What Worked in Yadav's Favour?

His surname is a major factor. Eyeing the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, Narendra Modi and Amit Shah, in all likelihood, chose Mohan Yadav to woo the voters of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, a senior party leader opined.

Yadav was identified by Union minister Bhupender Yadav, one of the two observers from the Centre supervising the Assembly election in MP. “This would be like killing two birds with one stone. We have an OBC as the CM, that is, an influential community that could help us achieve better results in next year's general election”, another BJP leader said.

The party has also named two deputy CMs – Rajendra Shukla, a Brahmin from Rewa in the Vindhya Pradesh region, and Jagdish Dewda, a scheduled caste leader from the opium belt of Mandsaur in the Malwa region. This is not the first time that two deputy CMs have been announced. Congress leader Digvijaya Singh during his tenure also had two deputy CMs – Subhash Yadav and Jamuna Devi (a tribal). “By doing so, the Congress wanted to strike a balance within its intra-party politics, but for the BJP it is a balancing act with caste politics in mind”, a BJP functionary told me.

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The Beginning of a New Politics in Madhya Pradesh

The BJP and the public have seen more than 16 years of Shivraj Mama's (uncle) rule, an image systematically cultivated by him, as he claimed to have empowered the state's women. His Ladli Behna Yojana, a cash-in-hand scheme for the 1.3 crore women of MP, was termed as the game changer for the party in the Assembly election, bringing the party to a record fifth time in power.

But it seems like the BJP had decided to replace him before the elections. Shivraj, who had become a power centre for the MP BJP, continued to challenge the central party leadership with his campaign speeches. He would often ask people whether they would want to see him as the CM again.

Even after the election results were announced and the name of the new CM was awaited, he was holding road shows and addressing rallies. “Delhi was watching him and the seniors were not impressed”, a senior party leader claimed.

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But What Next for Shivraj?

What would be his role in the coming days in MP or within the BJP?

“I don’t know, only Modi ji and Amit Shah can answer this”, the aforementioned party leader said, adding, ”But, Shivraj has made his position clear.” He was referring to the fact that the four-time CM, at least twice in the past week, has stated, ”I will not leave Madhya Pradesh”. He had made a similar statement in 2018 following the BJP’s defeat to the Congress party, but was then made the CM again following Jyotiraditya Scindia's rebellion.

“But this time he could see the writing on the wall, which is why he posted on X, Sabhi ko Ram Ram (Ram Ram to all), a day before the new CM was announced. It almost means bye bye”, one of his former cabinet colleagues told me.

Interestingly, a new government house was constructed for Shivraj in Bhopal by joining two palatial government bungalows. And the construction was completed on the day MP went to polls, that is, 17 November. The construction of the house began over a year ago. Was it a coincidence?

"No," a former minister claimed. "Shivraj already knew about his future," he told me.

Shivraj won the elections from the Budhni Assembly seat in Sehore district but will he be satisfied as an MLA for the next five years?

When he said that he would not leave MP, he added that he would want to give a garland of 29 lotuses (the number of Lok Sabha seats in the state) to PM Modi. When the prime minister himself was the face of the Assembly elections, can Shivraj still impact the 2024 polls in his state? Or will he be inducted as agriculture minister, replacing Narendra Singh Tomar who has been named as the speaker of the Vidhan Sabha? Shivraj can also contest the Lok Sabha election, or he can be accommodated within the party organisation in Delhi.

You can never write off a politician, especially like him, but there are many ifs and buts in the store for Shivraj. He may have won the election for the BJP but for the time being, it’s ‘Ram Ram’ for Mama.

(The author is a senior journalist based in Madhya Pradesh. This is an opinion article and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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