Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh): Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan will be facing a tough time ahead as he will have to maintain his people-friendly image and tackle discontent brewing in the party in the run-up to the urban bodies and Panchayat polls which will set the tone for the Assembly elections in 2023.
Chouhan is known among the masses as 'paon paon wale bhaiya' (foot soldier) and 'betiyon ke mama' (maternal uncle), but with the passage of time, it is not easy for any political leader to keep his/her image intact, and so is the case with Shivraj.
Chouhan, who is the state's longest serving Chief Minister and has been elected to the position thrice, has implemented many welfare schemes such as Ladli Lashmi Yojana, Kanyadan Vivah Yojana, due to which he became the face of more than half the population of the state.
His Sambal Yojana which aims to strengthen the lives of the poor and the SC and ST communities by providing them social security cover, right from birth to death, gave him an opportunity to reach out to the poor and backward classes.
The main challenge before Chouhan is reservation for Other Backward Classes (OBC). Former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Kamal Nath had increased the reservation for OBCs to 27 per cent during his tenure, but as the matter is in court, the community is unable to reap its benefit.
On the one hand, the OBCs are unable to get the benefit of increased reservation in jobs, while on the other hand Panchayat polls have prompted a new debate.
On the directions of the Supreme Court, the State Election Commission has postponed the polls for the OBC community in the reserved Panchayat areas. The Congress is holding the government responsible for this.
Experts are of the view that Chouhan is standing at the crossroads where his party can benefit or suffer a loss.
The Madhya Pradesh government along with the Centre on Wednesday filed a review petition in the Supreme Court against the latter's December 17 order staying polling for all OBC-reserved seats.
If OBC reservation continues in the Panchayat polls, then the BJP will benefit.
BJP spokesperson Durgesh Kesvani said the BJP governments at the Centre and the state are working for public welfare.
Welfare schemes are being run for every strata of society. Chouhan's popularity is intact. The Congress had pushed the state back in its 15-month rule. Kamal Nath's priorities changed after the Assembly polls. People have come to know the true face of the Congress, Kesvani added.
The priority of Shivraj Singh Chouhan and the BJP has been public welfare and that is the reason the people rejected the Congress in the bypolls and showed them a mirror, he claimed.
Though the BJP doesn't see any big challenge for the Chief Minister, the Congress is raising questions about Chouhan.
Congress spokesperson Abbas Hafeez said Chouhan's image took a beating in 2018 Assembly elections itself.
Hafeez said under Chouhan, who dubs himself as 'Mama' (maternal uncle), crime against women has increased, farmers were promised that their income will be doubled but many of them committed suicide.
Madhya Pradesh topped the country in such matters, that is the reason people voted Chouhan out of power in the 2018 polls, Hafeez claimed.
"Shivraj, who again formed the government after horse-trading of MLAs, carried forward the schemes which were introduced by the Congress-led Kamal Nath government."
Voices of dissent are rising within the BJP. It is being said that the BJP does not want to enter the poll fray with Chouhan as the party's face, he added.
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