Those who made it and those who did not

The one person who must be more upset than Kamal Nath post the Madhya Pradesh election results, is probably Shivraj Singh Chauhan, the ex chief minister who won the state but still couldn’t keep his old job. And in Shivraj’s personal angst lies the larger story of how the Modi-Shah regime works as well as […]

The one person who must be more upset than Kamal Nath post the Madhya Pradesh election results, is probably Shivraj Singh Chauhan, the ex chief minister who won the state but still couldn’t keep his old job. And in Shivraj’s personal angst lies the larger story of how the Modi-Shah regime works as well as the enviable hold the duo have on the rest of the party. A week after the assembly election results the BJP has announced chief ministers of the three states that it won in the recent assembly polls – Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Rajasthan. What is interesting in the selection is not so much the names that made it but those that did not. The fact that Shivraj Singh Chauhan, who was the sitting chief minister when the state successfully battled 18 plus years of anti-incumbency to stay on in power, was not given an extension is a provocative comment by itself. Though the campaign was fought on the PM›s own popularity, Shivraj›s own role in the comeback cannot be undermined. At first the BJP›s central leadership tried to sideline him but it found, towards the end of the campaign – I would say October onwards – that Shivraj or `Mamaji› as he is known in the state, had an immense appeal amongst the voters, especially the women who had benefited from his various schemes and handouts. Much has been talked about the Laadli Behna Scheme, that was announced as late as March this election year, that first put a stipend of Rs 1000 in the benefactor›s account , and later from August onwards, this sum was increased to Rs 1250. No politician – or economist – can undermine the pull that comes from the credit side of one›s bank›s ledger. I was in Bhopal on Dhanteras where the market was filled with women who had come to spend the latest trancheof their Laadli Behena subscription. Having said this, its not that the Ashok Gehlot government didn›t make its share of promises and welfare schemes for the voters, both women and men. But what was missing perhaps was the love and trust that `Mamaji› evoked. Which is why his losing out of the chief ministerial musical chairs is all the more surprising. We are told that a consolation prize awaits, but seriously, what could compensate for this loss? Given that the Lok Sabha polls are barely six months away, antagonizing a popular regional leader could backfire, but it is also a risk that the PM is taking and very confidently so. There is reason for this – and the answer lies in not just the PM›s own popularity but also the discipline of the BJP cadre. As a journalist colleague Aadesh Rawal (Journalist with Lokmat) wrote on twitter recently, «the Congress is in need of a Shivraj who won the state for his party but at one word from the center, left the CM›s chair». I would add the Congress needs a Modi as well, or at least an Amit Shah, to make sure that the words and sentiments uttered – get enforced. Anyone remember what happened when Ashok Gehlot was asked to leave his CM›s chair – and that too not for a punishment posting, but to become the Congress President, last year? (And yes, I hear you, those who are reading this and retorting that the Congress President›s Chair is no less than a punishment posting, given where the party is at the moment). Cabinet Minister Anurag Thakur, had once told me (in another context) while talking about the immense discipline in the BJP, recently reminded me about how even LK Advani had to step down as BJP Chief after he made his `Jinnah› comment. That is the discipline within our party he added. So, while an outsider may be surprised at the alacrity with which Shivraj Singh Chouhan stepped aside, those within the BJP are not. When the new Rajasthan CM›s name was announced Vasundhara was present to congratulate him with a bouquet of flowers, as the Cabinet Minister and central observer Rajnath Singh. Both Vasundhara, Rajnath and indeed Shivraj Singh CHouhan and Raman Singh all belong to the Vajpayee era, so in a sense it is the end of an era. While Vasudhara had made a bid for the CM›s chair, it is unlikely that she will keep pushing her case or publicly air her dissent once the decision has been taken. Now about those who did make it to the CM›s chair. In appointing Mohan Yadav in Madhya Pradesh, Vishnu Deo Sahi in Chhattisgarh and Bhajan Lal Sharma in Rajasthan, the PM has sent a strong message to both the marginalised and the party›s core base. The 58 year old CM is a three time MLA from Ujjain Dakshin constituency and also had been the Education minister in the Shivraj Singh Chauhan government. More importantly he has a good equation with Shivraj personally. The newly appointed Chief Minister of Chhattisgarh has also risen from the ranks. Born to a farmer›s family Sahi went on to become a village sarpanch, then MLA & MP, and rose to become Union Minister in the Modi government. He is 59 years old. Bhajan Lal  is a first time MLA but he has been the state general secretary four times over, the state›s longest serving organisational man. All the new Chief Ministers have risen from the ranks and are not Delhi Darbaris. They have worked their way up from the grassroots, have a clean record and are being given a chance to prove their administrative skills. That is the larger message from the chief ministerial picks – that no matter if you don›t make it to the media headlines, the PMO is watching. If you work hard, you will be given a chance. And, if you belong to the right caste or social matrix, that will finesse your case. (Those who argue that the RSS and the BJP do not play politics of caste, I would urge you to recall a cabinet reshuffle list that was released by the Modi Government, both with the names of the new ministers with their castes printed alongside).In the end, in all three cases it is the humble party karyakarta that has been elevated. That is by far the biggest take away from the BJP›s new chief ministerial faces.