As BJP Considers Fresh Chief Minister Face, Shivraj Chouhan’s Subtle Hint

Shivraj Chouhan has stayed away from Delhi after the BJP’s thumping win in Madhya Pradesh

Bhopal, New Delhi:

Amid speculation over the BJP’s Chief Minister picks in the three heartland states it just won, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, today appeared to send a message to the party leadership without really pushing his case.

Shivraj Singh Chouhan, a four-time Chief Minister, led his party to a historic victory in Madhya Pradesh on the back of schemes like “Ladli behena” but may still not get the job again, with the party consulting with other possible candidates and leaning towards a generational change.

Speaking to reporters during an event in Bhopal to mark the death anniversary of BR Ambedkar, the architect of the Constitution, Mr Chouhan said, “I paid tributes to Dr BR Ambedkar. The BJP government is following the path shown by him, under the leadership of Prime Minister (Narendra) Modi, we are working for the welfare of the last person in society.”

The remark was seen by many as a subtle attempt by the Chief Minister to remind the party leadership of how his government’s welfare schemes such as Ladli Behna played a key role in winning the election for the BJP.

This comes at a time when there is talk of the BJP considering completely new faces instead of veterans while choosing Chief Ministers for the heartland states, with an eye on the bigger election due next year.

Ever since the BJP scored a thumping win in Madhya Pradesh – 163 out of 230 seats – Mr Chouhan has insisted that he is a footsoldier of the party and that he is “not in the race”.

In an interaction with reporters, also yesterday, Mr Chouhan said his next goal was to ensure the BJP’s victory in all 29 Lok Sabha seats in the general election next year. The BJP won 28 out of the 29 seats last year, one going to the Congress.

Careful to not be seen as lobbying for the top post, Mr Chouhan has stayed away from Delhi. “I am not going to Delhi. Tomorrow, I will go to Chhindwara where we were not able to win all the 7 seats of Vidhan Sabha. I have only one resolution: the BJP should win all 29 seats of Madhya Pradesh in the Lok Sabha elections. We want to prepare a garland for Prime Minister Modi. It will be made of 29 lotuses that we present to him when he becomes Prime Minister again,” he said yesterday.

Following his victory, the Chief Minister visited two night shelters in Bhopal to take stock of the arrangements ahead of winter. He also tasted the food at the night shelter. He also went to a locality in Bhopal and met a group of ‘Ladli Behna’ beneficiaries. A viral video showed him and his wife dining and interacting with people at a restaurant. The activities appear to be aimed at creating a perception that the 64-year-old has his ear close to the ground and is not part of any race for power.

The BJP leadership has been meeting with leaders from the three states as part of the brainstorming to choose Chief Ministers who will lead the heartland into the key elections next year.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah and BJP chief JP Nadda today met with key leaders from each state. A marathon meeting was held at Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s residence last night to discuss the frontrunners in the three states.

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