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Copycat tag on Chouhan charity

Bhopal, Jan. 12: Call it the Arvind Kejriwal effect. Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan was spotted visiting Bhopal’s night shelters, offering tea and blankets to the homeless, over the weekend.

Chouhan spent two hours in the shelters and also conducted surprise checks on government hospitals. This was second time in less than 48 hours that Chouhan, who came back to power last month the third time, went on such tours helping the needy and suspending erring officials on the spot.

The Congress was quick to term Chouhan’s gestures a “gimmick” and accuse the 53-year-old BJP leader of “copying” Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. Leader of Opposition Satyadev Katare said Chouhan should “introspect” why “millions” continued to suffer in spite of the BJP’s claims of good governance.

Chouhan denied the allegations and said he always cared for the poor. “It just struck me that on a chilly night, I would find out how my fellow brothers and sisters are braving the cold,” he told reporters during last night’s tour as he requested a group of homeless people to move to a government-run night shelter.

Chouhan said there were five rain baseras (night shelters) in Bhopal, stocked with firewood and blankets. “Perhaps, people lack awareness,” he said, asking officials to conduct night tours and help citizens.

Yesterday, during a tour of government offices, the chief minister had admonished and fined a joint director of the town and country planning department for smoking at work. Smoking in public places is prohibited across the country under a law in force since October 2008.

A few hours later, Chouhan was spotted examining the quality of a road recently laid by a civic body. It was a busy afternoon and Chouhan insisted traffic should not be halted or diverted to let his convoy pass.

His next stop was the building permission office of Bhopal municipal commissioner Vishesh Gadhpale. There, he picked up files at random and noticed that some bidders had not put down contact numbers in application forms. The chief minister instructed the commissioner to direct them to complete the forms.

BJP leaders vehemently contested suggestions that Chouhan’s drive was influenced by the Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party’s style of governance in Delhi.

“We care for the people. There is nothing new in the chief minister conducting surprise inspections,” said state BJP spokesperson Hitesh Bajpai.

Since assuming charge afresh on December 14, Chouhan has announced a series of welfare measures, such as providing rice at Re 1 per kg, wheat and salt to the poor, Bajpai said. Other initiatives include a crackdown on corruption, ban on new liquor vends and commission for the middle class.