Governor Lalji Tandon administered the oath of office Monday night, hours after Chouhan was elected BJP Legislature Party leader.
Chouhan’s first crucial test will be the Assembly bypolls to 24 seats — 22 held by Congress rebels who resigned and two which fell vacant following the death of the MLAs (one each from THE Congress, BJP). The BJP has 107 members in the 230-member Assembly, so the bypoll results can decide whether its government stays or falls.
All eyes will also be on the Cabinet selection — whether Chouhan accommodates the Congress rebels, or chooses to wait till the bypolls are held.
The Congress, which won 114 seats in the Assembly polls last December and formed the government with the support of four Independents, one SP and two BSP members, lost majority after 22 MLAs, led by former Union Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia, rebelled earlier this month.
Kamal Nath resigned as Chief Minister on March 20, before facing the trust vote ordered by the Supreme Court.
After Chouhan’s oath-taking ceremony, Scindia, who has since joined the BJP, tweeted: “I am sure MP will reach new heights under your leadership.”
“We will work together for state’s progress and development,’’ Chouhan responded.
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Congratulating Chouhan, Kamal Nath, who attended the swearing-in, said the BJP government should immediately announce a relief package for vendors, small traders, workers and daily wagers who will bear the brunt of the lockdown.
Former Chief Minister and senior Congress leader Digvijaya Singh was more unsparing. “The people gave a verdict against (him)… and to change his corrupt administration. The BJP used deceit and money to hand over the state’s reins to him,’’ he said.
After taking oath alone, Chouhan headed to the Secretariat, saying the coronavirus pandemic needed urgent attention. In a short speech he said: “We gave good governance for 15 years. We will give better governance and try to make amends for mistakes that we may have committed in the past.”
At the BJP Legislature Party meeting earlier, he asked cadres not to burst firecrackers or venture out of their homes.
“It’s not the time to celebrate but to tackle the coronavirus epidemic,” he said. “There will be a change in the way the state is governed,’’ he said, adding, “decisions will speak, works will speak.’’
While Union Minister Narendra Singh Tomar was a strong contender, the BJP seems to have chosen Chouhan for his experience and popularity.
The BJP Legislature Party meeting was expected to be held Saturday, but it was postponed without a fresh date being set. The meeting was suddenly called Monday, with the party making it clear that it would take the opinion of legislators who couldn’t come to Bhopal on the phone.
Amid the lockdown in most parts of the country, a video conference was arranged with the party’s central observers.
Most BJP legislators who turned up for the meeting wore masks and sat on alternate chairs. The party had warned cadres not to gather at the headquarters for the meeting.
Chouhan (61) was Chief Minister for three terms — between 2005 and 2018. He was already the longest serving Chief Minister of the state, having served for over 13 years.
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