New Delhi: A lot of water has flown down in the past three years in the Narmada river that originates in MP and ends in Gujarat. The recent political developments connected with Narmada prove beyond doubt, that once a coy chief minister of MP, Shivraj Singh Chauhan has come a long way from the worst-ever crisis of Vyapam related deaths to national stardom with Narmada Yatra’s grand success.
In Delhi, the lot of politicians, mainly BJP leaders, are looking at Shivraj with a heightened sense of admiration, what with Prime Minister Narendra Modi singing peans of him, against his known nature. Even environmentalists have become curious about the Narmada campaign.
Not long ago, Shivraj Singh Chauhan, the second longest serving CM of the saffron party in the country after CG’s Raman Singh, was quite unsure of his political future, thanks to a string of serious controversies and scams surrounding his regime. The Vyapam admissions scam, the CBI probe, Simhastha controversies, multi-crore nutrition supply scandal and then the illegal sand mining in Narmada involving his relatives, had provided him many sleepless nights. Opposition had made enough political capital out of it.
Reports about his ‘imminent’ removal have been pretty regular in Delhi’s political grapevine, courtesy his political rivals within the state BJP. Latest was when Manohar Parrikar chose to go back to Goa as CM last month. Chauhan’s name quickly cropped up among the successors to the defence minister. Rumours of his shifting to Delhi acquired such serious proportions that a senior Cabinet minister had to convene a press conference in Bhopal to scotch them and declare Shivraj was not leaving Madhya Pradesh.
However, the recent conclusion of a high-profile Narmada Seva Yatra has pitchforked him into national prominence, besides rooting him firmly in the saddle. His detractors had dubbed the Narmada yatra as a ‘political yatra’ but Modi’s wholehearted praise on Monday, calling the five-month long yatra “ extraordinary ‘’ has silenced his intra-party critics. The PM also adviced other states to learn from MP. If the Narmada model of conservation is adopted by other BJP states, Chauhan’s political height is set to go up by a few notches, admit political observers here.
Party insiders told FPJ, there was a time when Chauhan was apprehensive of his stability given Modi’s style of politics soon after May 2014. People close to him have seen him very nervous initially.
Although Congress, mainly AICC general secretary Digvijay Singh and PCC chief Arun Yadav keep reminding people that CM had no control over bureaucrats and that corruption had risen manifold under Shivraj’s long rule—he was elected as CM in November 2005—the great survivor in the farmer-turned-politician has won the heart of prime minister Modi beyond any doubts.
Modi’s body language, the choice of words that he used for the CM and MP Government at the Amarkantak function on May 15, bore testimony to the fact Shivraj has emerged as the blue-eyed boy of Narendra Modi. Modi, visibly impressed with huge attendance, said the efforts done by MP Government to conserve an ancient river through public participation are worth emulating by other states. He also lauded MP’s cleanliness drive in which Indore and Bhopal topped all India list of Swatch Bharat campaign.
But then it’s not the first time Modi appeared to have been impressed with Shivraj, much to chagrin of detractors like Union Ganga Rejuvenation Minister Uma Bharti who is perceived to have failed in the mammoth task of Ganga cleaning so far.
Shivraj, a former Advani camp follower, built his image block by block and very carefully. He used his oratory skills and crowd gathering abilities to his great political advantage.
A CM who had once sat on a dharna against UPA government’s coal royalty policy, was nominated by Modi as chairman of a NITI Aayog panel to study centrally-sponsored schemes’ utility and make recommendations. Then when the PM talked of poverty alleviation, he made a working group of CMs under Chauhan’s chairmanship to suggest a road map.
“It’s not that the strides of progress made by Madhya Pradesh have gone completely unnoticed in Delhi. MP’s double-digit agricultural growth has been a shining example and then central leadership consults our CM on agriculture related matters regularly,” confided a senior minister, adding “Shivraj’s sheer hard work and humility have brought him closer to PM.”