Exactly a month after the BJP’s defeat in the Assembly polls, party president Amit Shah has shunted former Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan out of state politics.
Along with Vasundhara Raje and Raman Singh, the ousted BJP chief ministers of Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, respectively, Chouhan has been made BJP national vice president. With their induction, the number of vice presidents of the party has gone up to seven.
A vice president post is being seen as a massive snub to Chouhan, who was a powerful general secretary of the party 15 years ago when his mentor L K Advani used to call the shots.
In fact, it is a double whammy for a demoralised Chouhan, as he has not only been demoted in the BJP hierarchy but has also been made to stay away from his home state ahead of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
Unlike Chouhan, Raje and Singh never held any post in the party's national set-up. So, the vice president’s post for them could be considered rehabilitation after their failures in recent Assembly polls.
The announcement of his new assignment in the party on Thursday night took Chouhan by surprise. He was all set to visit hailstorm-hit areas in the state.
However, Chouhan hailed the announcement. He expressed gratitude towards the prime minister and the BJP president for assigning him an important responsibility.
Through his actions and statements, the former chief minister sought to give an impression that he would stay put in Madhya Pradesh despite the BJP’s drubbing. “I love my state more than my life and will continue to serve its people till my last breath,” he had said last month when asked if he had a plan to become active in national politics.
However, the BJP high command had begun to give clear signals that Chouhan was more a liability than an asset for the party in the run-up to the 2019 elections.
The high command denied Chouhan permission to embark on a state-wide journey to express gratitude to the people for supporting the BJP in the Assembly election. His lobbying to grab the post of leader of Opposition was also thwarted. Worse, the party chose the former chief minister’s known detractor Gopal Bhargava for the coveted post.
BJP sources say that state party president Rakesh Singh, who is a close confidante of Amit Shah, will lead the BJP campaign in Madhya Pradesh for the Lok Sabha election.