Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has been quite a posterboy for the BJP’s regional leadership, and it is a terrible disappointment to discover that he can’t walk on water. Indeed, that he must be carried across by men in khaki, even when the water is only ankle deep. Chouhan strode forth from Bhopal like Vikramaditya out of Ujjain, determined to experience at first hand the hardships that citizens face because of heavy rain and floods. But he failed to put his best foot forward when he encountered water, and someone took a picture.
Officials are blaming overzealous policemen and home guards determined not to let their chief minister get his feet wet in Panna, but that’s really stretching it. Has a chief minister no executive capacity? Agreed, he is only human and cannot part the waters, but can he be scooped up like baggage and just carried away? Especially an agile chief minister who ostensibly leads from the front in state efforts to promote yoga and performs the surya namaskar in public with evident pleasure? It is reported that Chouhan lithely boarded a tractor when he reached the far bank and lectured the people from that coign of vantage. And that, on his way back, he spurned all aid and forded the tiny torrent himself. Sources have been unable to confirm if he took his sneakers off.
Those flawlessly white sneakers. Those improbably immaculate white trousers. Their contrast with the men in damp khakis who did the heavy lifting — that put a certain colour on the incident and sparked off a controversy which the opposition in the state is still milking. Chouhan is yet another politician who does not understand that privacy is dead. Even in the districts, even in the midst of a flood, there is a camera in every pocket, lying in wait for the delicious or decisive moment.