MP Ex-CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan Set For Delhi Journey After PM Hints At Bigger Role For BJP Stalwart

MP Ex-CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan Set For Delhi Journey After PM Hints At Bigger Role For BJP Stalwart

Chouhan, who was the chief minister from 2005 to 2023, is contesting the Lok Sabha polls from his stronghold Vidisha, an ancient city incidentally located on the Bhopal-Delhi train route.

PTIUpdated: Saturday, April 27, 2024, 12:24 PM IST
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Madhya Pradesh Ex-CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan | File photo

Bhopal (Madhya Pradesh): Madhya Pradesh's longest-serving chief minister and BJP stalwart Shivraj Singh Chouhan is likely to play an important role in national politics with Prime Minister Narendra Modi telling an election rally recently that he wanted to "take him to Delhi (Centre)".

Chouhan, who was the chief minister from 2005 to 2023, is contesting the Lok Sabha polls from his stronghold Vidisha, an ancient city incidentally located on the Bhopal-Delhi train route.

Chouhan, who was the chief minister from 2005 to 2023, is contesting the Lok Sabha polls from his stronghold Vidisha, an ancient city incidentally located on the Bhopal-Delhi train route.

The BJP candidate is up against Pratap Bhanu Sharma, a Congressman who won the seat in 1980 and 1984 on the back of the post-Emergency Indira Gandhi juggernaut and later, the sympathy wave caused by her death.

These were the only two occasions when the Congress won the seat since it was created in 1967.

Speaking at a rally in Madhya Pradesh's Harda on April 24, Modi praised Chouhan saying the two had served together in the party organisation and also as chief ministers.

"When Shivraj went to Parliament, I was working together as general secretary of the party. Now I want to take him with me (to Delhi) once again," Modi said at the rally.

Incidentally, Chouhan had reached Vidisha through a Delhi-bound train after the announcement of his candidature.

He led the BJP to a crushing victory in last year's Assembly polls, though the party, in a surprise move, picked Mohan Yadav as his successor.

Fondly called 'mama' (uncle) and 'paon paon wale bhaiya' in his younger days, Chouhan will be contesting his sixth Lok Sabha election from Vidisha, a seat represented by BJP stalwarts like late Atal Bihari Vajpayee (1991) and Sushma Swaraj (2009 and 2014), as well as newspaper publisher Ramnath Goenka (1971).

After his name was announced, Chouhan said the seat was handed over to him by Vajpayee and it was heartening that he was getting an opportunity to represent it again after 20 years.

"The BJP is my mother, who has given me everything," Chouhan had said at the time.

Chouhan, after serving as first-time MLA from his home turf Budhni, was fielded by the BJP in the 1992 LS bypoll necessitated by the resignation of sitting MP Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

As an MP, he represented the seat five times till 2004 when he resigned to become Madhya Pradesh chief minister in 2005.

"The Congress is only contesting as a ritual as it is no challenge for us. We will win even from booths that have traditionally voted for the Congress. Our aim is to increase the margin. Shivraj ji himself is reaching out to every part," state BJP secretary Rajneesh Agrawal, a native of Vidisha Lok Sabha constituency, told PTI.

On the campaign trail, Chouhan, accompanied by wife Sadhana Singh, can be seen interacting with street food vendors while savouring chaat and samosas over a cup of tea. He also makes it a point to meet voters, especially women, who form a large chunk of his support base.

However, Vidisha district Congress president Mohit Raghuvanshi accused Chouhan of ignoring Vidisha parliamentary areas despite being the local MP and former CM, alleging the BJP leader has not fulfilled promises.

"Chouhan, who used to be the main face of the BJP in the state for two decades, has been confined to Vidisha for campaigning due to the strong challenge posed by the Congress. He has been reduced to the status of a local leader," Raghuvanshi told PTI.

He claimed Congress candidate Sharma had set up educational institutions when he was MP for two terms, that too at a time when there was no local area development fund for parliamentarians.

Rasheed Kidwai, senior journalist and political observer, told PTI that the BJP, under pressure from its ideological mentor Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, was "forced" to field Chouhan from the seat.

"It is an open secret that Shivraj's popularity was sought to be checked but the BJP, under pressure from RSS and women voters, decided to field the former chief minister," Kidwai said.

"He is set to win by a huge margin. In fact, if he wins by the biggest margin from the state or nationally, it is likely to become a major talking point and will be compared with margins in Varanasi, Gandhinagar, Lucknow and elsewhere," Kidwai added.

However, it remains to be seen how Chouhan fits into the Modi-Amit Shah set-up, Kidwai asserted.

Vidisha Lok Sabha seat is spread across eight assembly seats in Vidisha, Raisen, Sehore and Dewas districts.

Bhojpur, Sanchi (SC), and Silwani assembly constituencies are in Raisen district, Vidisha and Basoda in Vidisha district, Budhni and Icchawar in Sehore and Khategaon in Dewas.

Seven of these eight assembly segments of Vidisha LS seat are currently held by the BJP with Chouhan representing Budhni.

Swaraj had won the 2009 Lok Sabha polls by a margin of 3.90 lakh votes after the nomination of Congress candidate Rajkumar Patel, a former MLA from Budhni and minister in Digvijaya Singh's cabinet, was rejected on technical grounds.

Vidisha Lok Sabha is 80 per cent rural and dominated by OBCs, including a sizeable chunk from the Dhakad-Kirar community of Chouhan, as well as 35 per cent SCs/STs, according to a local BJP leader.

Of the 19.38 lakh eligible voters in Vidisha, 10.04 lakh are men and 9.34 lakh women.

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