Nearly a decade in office, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has won much bigger political battles than the latest round of municipal polls.
In normal times, elections to 10 urban bodies, including two municipal corporations, would not have attracted much attention given that only eight months ago the BJP had won all nine posts of mayors.
However, followed as they did the uproar over the Vyapam scam, especially the deaths of some people linked to it, the outcome of the polls had become more crucial for Chouhan than the opposition Congress that seems to have resigned itself to its fate in the electoral arena.
Doing several road shows and deploying the party’s well-oiled machinery, Chouhan delivered it once again by nearly sweeping the polls, and, more importantly, vindicating himself. He was quick to call the victory a rebuff to those who had engaged in negative propaganda in the wake of Vyapam deaths.
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Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who hasn’t uttered a word on Vyapam as yet, had endorsed Chouhan in a recent public rally in poll-bound Bihar. In March this year, Modi– who quickly tweeted his appreciation on Sunday afternoon– had kept Chouhan on tenterhooks by agreeing to meet a Congress delegation which wanted to submit what it called evidence about the scam.
Hoping that it had finally succeeded in finding a chink in Chouhan’s armour, the Congress had tried to make Vyapam an issue even in the municipal elections.
It had failed miserably to do so in the 2013 assembly elections which took place within months of the scam coming to light in July, and the 2014 general elections. A divided house, the Congress won only two seats in the Lok Sabha elections.
This time, most of its state leaders with national appeal did not campaign. It’s debatable if their presence would have made much difference.
Leader of Opposition Satyadev Katare is undergoing treatment in Mumbai. Former Chief Minister and AICC general secretary Digvijaya Singh has been the most vocal against Chouhan and the BJP but his offensive was not supported on the ground.
Chouhan and the BJP on the other hand were meticulous in defence, printing and distributing booklets called Vyapam Ka Sach. It countered the Congress by coming out with details of illegalities during Digvijaya Singh’s regime.
Not given to humour, Chouhan finally decided to be a little playful in his victory speech. “I am concerned about what new record will we set. We have won all 16 municipal corporations,’’ he said in mock disappointment.