Analysis | Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s metamorphosis from plain ‘mama’ to ‘bulldozer mama’

There has been a change in the rhetoric and style as well as governance of the Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister after a section of the Congress's legislative party defected to the BJP led by Union Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia.

Published - April 12, 2022 01:52 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. File

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. File | Photo Credit: PTI

Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan's metamorphosis from plain "mama" (maternal uncle) the distributor of welfare goods and avuncular style to "bulldozer mama" (uncle with the bulldozer) is not sudden, although the bulldozing of residences of people alleged to have been involved in the communal fracas that ensued in Khargone district may look like it.

Ever since Mr. Chouhan's return to the Chief Minister's seat in 2020, after a section of the Congress's legislative party defected to the BJP led by Union Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia, there has been a change in the rhetoric and style as well as governance of Mr. Chouhan.

Time was when Christmas was celebrated at the Chief Minister's residence in Shyamala hills in Bhopal, and the party's only Muslim woman candidate in the last Assembly polls, Fatima Siddiqui was escorted by Mr. Chouhan when she went to file nomination papers. Now the talk is more about anti-conversion law, and the liberal use of bulldozers to demolish properties of alleged perpetrators of crime (many from a particular community) in Sheopur, Raisen, Shahdol and Seoni, and now in Khargone in an action against communal violence there.

By taking on the successful ‘bulldozer’ metaphor from Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath, Mr. Chouhan appears to not just be borrowing from a successful mobilisation on the issue of law and order, acting tough on crime, but also a hard Hindutva line. This is a post-2020 phenomenon and owes only the tactical aspects to Mr. Adityanath, with the larger strategic goal being to shore up support within and outside the party in the run up to the 2023 polls.

Generational shift

Never a favourite with national leadership post 2012, Mr. Chouhan's loss in the 2018 polls saw a generational shift within the Madhya Pradesh BJP, a traditional stronghold of the party, with then party chief Amit Shah appointing his choice, Lok Sabha MP V.D. Sharma as State unit chief, someone not known to be close to Mr. Chouhan. It was a clear signal that Mr. Chouhan's less than easy equations may not survive the BJP's stint in the Opposition.

Then came the rebellion in the Congress by Mr. Scindia and the question of just who among the BJP's leadership could lead the party to victory for the 28 Assembly seat bypolls that were looming after 22 Congress MLAs defected to the BJP. The answer was Mr. Chouhan, but the terms were tough, he was appointed Chief Minister only to struggle alone with the COVID-19 pandemic as Delhi took its time approving his Council of Ministers.

With battle lines being clearly drawn thus between Mr. Chouhan, currently the longest serving Chief Minister from the BJP, and the post-.Vajpayee era of the party, hard Hindutva seems to be the path Mr. Chouhan has chosen to take, his avuncular mein toughened with scarce political choices.

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