With its chief ministers Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Raman Singh and Vasundhara Raje fighting valiantly to hold fort for the party and dimming the shine of the Congress’ victory in their states, the BJP is now contemplating the roles that will be given to them, party sources said.
Sources said it is unlikely that the party would let “leaders of that stature get wasted” in the opposition, and would rather utilise them for larger causes.
“All three leaders have grown beyond their states. Their vast experience in the state and in the government will be utilised for larger causes. Leaders of their stature may not be wasted in playing the opposition role, for which a new leadership could emerge,” said a party leader.
However, the sources said that they may not be immediately shifted to the Centre as the party has already begun preparations for the Lok Sabha polls. “The party needs them there to see that the party gets maximum seats,” said a source.
There has been speculation that Chouhan could fight from Vidisha seat as MP. External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has announced she will not contest the Lok Sabha polls. Singh and Raje could contest so that they can influence voters in surrounding constituencies too.
While Chouhan, after being in the top post for 13 years, managed to stop the Congress from crossing the magic number in Madhya Pradesh, Raje proved most poll pundits and even party leaders wrong when the BJP bagged 73 of the 200 seats and stopped the Congress just short of majority. The BJP’s performance in Chhattisgarh was poor — it won only 15 of the 90 seats — but party leaders did not attribute this to Singh.
On December 13, while addressing party leaders to assess the preparations for the Lok Sabha polls, BJP chief Amit Shah said the “Congress has won, but the BJP has not lost”. This, sources said, indicated the party’s analysis of the election verdict.
“What has moved away is the floating votes that, most of the time, become the deciding factor,” said a party leader.
While a section of leaders blamed “over-interference” of the central leadership, others argued that the national leadership’s intervention salvaged the situation in Rajasthan.
Party leaders pointed out that leaving Chouhan, Singh and Raje to play the opposition leaders’ roles would not only be “unfair” to their stature but also “block another rung of leaders from emerging”. As a leader said: “It is high time the BJP took serious steps to develop a strong second-rung leadership. There is already criticism that the party’s bench strength is weak. We do not have much of a young leadership representing different communities.” Chouhan is a member of the parliamentary board of the party, a post he is likely to retain. “Although he was appointed as its member in his role as CM, both Modiji and Shah are unlikely to remove him from the panel,” a source said. The BJP has already announced that Chouhan will address an OBC rally in Patna, indicating that the party could use him to woo backward voters across the country.