(This piece was originally written in Hindi and has been translated by Om Tiwari. Tiwari is a Delhi-based journalist and columnist.)
“…I am in a dangerous mood nowadays. I will not spare anyone involved in illegal activities. Mama is back in form. I have launched a campaign against the land mafia, who exercise muscle power. There is the drug mafia as well, to whom I say, leave Madhya Pradesh, else I will bury you 10 feet deep, and no one will know your whereabouts. Good administration wipes out the bad elements to ensure the safety of the public.”
These are the words of Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan who returned to power in Madhya Pradesh having toppling the Congress government recently. Only this time, he seems to have lost his geniality; rather, he appears to be creating just the opposite image for himself.
‘Will bury 10 ft deep’ — for example — has never been the kind of language Chouhan has uttered. In his last three terms, he not only succeeded in making the state riot-and-crime-free but built an image of being a ‘mama ji’ — implementing several popular schemes for women. In his fourth term, however, he seems to be a different person altogether.
Shivraj Singh Chouhan Needs To ‘Balance’ Expectations
While Shivraj Singh Chouhan as chief minister appeared to be lashing out at the state land mafia, insiders believe there is more to this than meets the eye.
The political buzz is that all is not well between Chouhan and the central government, due to which he is under tremendous pressure. Striking a political balance in the state is another issue, as he is required to ‘pay back’ the Congress ministers and legislatures who helped him overturn the Kamal Nath government.
In the recent Cabinet expansion, Chouhan inducted two newly-elected Congress MLAs but failed to include old BJP loyalist Ramesh Mendola, an MLA from Indore.
Mendola is not alone in being ignored. Former BJP Minister Ajay Vishnoi has already expressed his disappointment after being ignored. Shivraj Singh Chouhan has a daunting task ahead — to pacify these leaders.
Additionally, Madhya Pradesh is on the boil after clashes during the rallies organised to raise funds for the Ram Temple in Ayodhya. Begum Bagh in Ujjain, Chandan Khedi village in Indore and Dorana in Mandsaur witnessed massive clashes and stone-pelting during the rallies.
The miscreants participating in the rallies targeted mosques in Chandan Kheri and Dorana and forcibly planted saffron flags atop Muslims houses. It was no coincidence that the administration also demolished the houses and shops of Muslims in Chandan Kheri and Ujjain on the pretext of their alleged role in the violence.
Even as questions are being asked as to who in the administration charted out routes for the rallies, giving a free hand to the miscreants, and turning a blind eye to provocative sloganeering and vandalism, the police and administrative officers have no definitive answer.
Is Chouhan Trying To ‘Please’ Central Leadership?
Now Shivraj Singh Chouhan is planning to bring a law against stone-pelting, taking a cue from the Uttar Pradesh government, which passed a controversial law to recover compensation from those who damage public and private property during protests or violence.
Earlier, the MP government enacted a stringent law, on the lines of the UP government, against religious conversion to stop so-called cases of ‘love jihad’.
Political pundits believe that either Shivraj Singh Chouhan has been trying to ‘please the BJP central leadership’ or ‘taking orders from the RSS’. Some call it an ‘desperate attempt’ to become another Yogi Adityanath.
The upcoming panchayat elections could also be a reason behind the rallies in the state — to consolidate the BJP votes. The elections were scheduled between December 2020 and January 2021, but the BJP government requested to defer them to February.
‘Shivraj Singh Chouhan Doesn’t Want To Be A Yogi Adityanath... He Wants To Be A Modi’
Senior journalist and political analyst Hemant Pal brings a different perspective to Chouhan’s politics. He says Shivraj Singh Chouhan is adept at roleplaying. Having an image of being a diligent party worker, bhaiya and mama ji, Chouhan now wants to project himself as a fearless CM.
He does not want to become a Yogi Adityanath, as it appears to many. Rather, he aspires to become a Narendra Modi. He has even begun to speak like Modi, according to many.
Chouhan believes in changing his strategy from election to election, say Hemant Pal. He won’t hesitate to do a ‘shirshan’ on stage if it can ensure votes for him. Gestures like folding hands to the crowd and touching the feet of elders is his trademark style. Now he is threatening to ‘bury 10 feet deep’, claiming good governance and taking action against officers during virtual meetings. ‘Ram Rajya’ is part of his political dictionary, and senior journalist Hemant Pal categorically questions this — whether the last 15 years were not enough for Chouhan to install a ‘Ram Rajya’ in Madhya Rajya.
(Jawed Aalam is a columnist and translator [English, Hindi, Urdu]. This is an opinion piece, and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)