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Hat-trick mama’s grateful slip

Chouhan in Bhopal on Sunday. (PTI)

Bhopal, Dec. 8: A jubilant Shivraj Singh Chouhan thanked the who’s who of the BJP for his third consecutive win in Madhya Pradesh. But perhaps because of the excitement, he named L.K. Advani, Sushma Swaraj, Rajnath Singh, Arun Jaitley and few others ahead of Narendra Modi.

As if sensing his “lapse”, Chouhan quickly remembered and added another name — Uma Bharti.

While Chouhan has never spoken about his perceived differences with the Gujarat chief minister or the firebrand sadhvi, many in the BJP “sense” some sort of an unease between the low-profile but highly successful chief minister of Madhya Pradesh and Modi.

A section of the BJP thinks Chouhan’s victory today has put him in the league of three-term BJP chief ministers, along with Raman Singh of Chhattisgarh and Modi. BJP leaders often speak in private about “dark horses” — a reference to leaders whose liberal image may help draw allies in case it emerges as the single largest party but the NDA falls short of a majority in the Lok Sabha.

Early this morning, some priests were seen entering Chouhan’s residence at 6 Shyamla Hills in Bhopal. The priests held a yagna and special prayers till around 11am when election trends showed the Chouhan-led BJP establishing its lead in 120 constituencies in the state with 230 Assembly seats.

Chouhan’s wife Sadhna and two sons appeared on the balcony, waving at BJP workers gathered outside. When Chouhan spotted them drawing media attention, his family quietly returned inside.

In Bhopal, there is near-unanimity that Chouhan was singularly responsible for the BJP’s impressive performance in the state. By late this evening, the BJP was leading in 162 seats while the Congress tally was hovering around 60.

Throughout the campaign, Chouhan emerged as the state’s most popular political figure. BJP insiders said he was able to tide over the “anti-incumbency” against the majority of sitting BJP MLAs and some state ministers. As if aware of the negative perception, Chouhan kept telling voters at every meeting: “Please ignore lapses of local MLA and vote for me.”

Another line repeated by him in every public meeting was “in the last many years, I have ruled the state not as chief minister but as your brother, son and maternal uncle (mama)”.

As Chouhan gets ready for another term, his critics want him to rein in his own ministers, many of whom are much senior to him in politics and have direct connect with the RSS. Several bureaucrats dub Chouhan as a “gentleman but not an effective administrator”.

Unlike Chouhan and the BJP, the Congress story in Madhya Pradesh had many gaps and hiccups. AICC vice-president Rahul Gandhi tried to enforce discipline and bring about unity among local leaders but the supporters of Kamal Nath, Jyotiraditya Scindia, Digvijaya Singh, Suresh Pachouri and others remained divided.

The ticket distribution exercise was conducted in Delhi and the state leadership was divided. Central ministers and AICC functionaries either stayed away or made token visits that convinced party workers that the high command had given up on Madhya Pradesh.

Today, their worst fears came true. Veterans feel the Congress in Madhya Pradesh may go “the way of Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Bengal and Tami Nadu” — states where the organisation is ineffective.