While the BJP is almost certain to fight the next Assembly elections in Madhya Pradesh under the leadership of Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the party is unlikely to project a chief ministerial candidate for the polls in Chhattisgarh, where there has been a strong demand for change in the state unit leadership, sources said on Thursday.
Both states are expected to go polls before November 2023.
On Thursday, the BJP senior leadership held meetings with key leaders of the core groups of Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh in Delhi.
The meeting on Madhya Pradesh, attended by BJP national president J P Nadda, general secretary (organisation) B L Santosh and party state in-charge P Muralidhar Rao apart from the state leaders, decided to expedite preparation works such as filling up vacancies in the council of ministers, state-run boards and commissions while stepping up organisational activities at the booth level, sources said.
They said the central leadership “has no plans or discussions” on change of leadership at the party level or the government level ahead of the state elections as Chouhan – a four-term chief minister – “has regained” the national leadership’s “confidence with his effective leadership”.
During a recent visit to Bhopal, senior party leader and Union Home Minister Amit Shah praised Chouhan for the way his government has been implementing the welfare schemes initiated by central government led by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The sources said the state BJP unit was also upbeat with activities at the district to booth levels.
But the situation in Chhattisgarh, where the party is in the opposition, is different, the sources said.
The rift-ridden state unit has not shown any sign of revival, with one faction alleging that the dominant faction led by former chief minister Raman Singh is calling the shots without taking others into confidence.
A national BJP vice-president, Singh remains the tallest leader and has managed to put those close to him in key posts. Both state unit chief Vishnu Deo Sai and leader of the opposition Dharamlal Kaushik are considered close to him. According to a party leader from the state, “even secretary (organisation) Pawan Kumar Sai would not like to upset Singh”.
However, the recent defeat in the Khairagarh bypoll, which was termed as a semi-final to Assembly elections by Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, has made the state leadership’s position precarious.
“The party has not won a single election under this leadership. Every party leader till the mandal level would tell you this leadership will not be able to lead the party to a win. The BJP is not able to make use of the internal differences or the governance failures of the Congress government in the state,” a party leader said. “The current leadership has failed not only in regaining the trust of the voters but also failed to take everyone along in the organisation too.”
Over the past few days, BJP general secretary D Purandeswari, who is in charge of Chhattisgarh, met state leaders to take their feedback on the state of affairs. Purandeswari is expected to submit a report to the national leadership on the basis of the feedback.
The BJP central leadership has taken a serious view of the Khairagarh bypoll defeat, in which the party candidate lost by a margin of more than 20,000 votes, earlier this month, according to a leader familiar with the developments. In the 2018 elections, the tally of the BJP, which was in power in Chhattisgarh for three consecutive terms, went down from 49 to 15 seats in the 90-member Assembly. A year later, the party lost Dantewada in a bypoll.
Although Brijmohan Agrawal, a former minister, had emerged as a formidable competitor for Singh in the state, the leadership viewed some of his activities as indiscipline, said sources. Other prominent leaders considered to be against the “Singh camp” are Rajya Sabha MP Saroj Pandey, MLA Ajay Chandrakar and former Lok Sabha MP Nand Kumar Sai.
At Thursday’s meeting, which was attended by Singh, Vishnu Deo Sai, Kaushik and Pawan Kumar Sai, the demands for a leadership change came up, party sources said. “However, no decision is taken,” said a source.
“With a section of the state unit strongly opposing Raman Singh, the national leadership may opt for going to polls without a chief minister face [in Chhattisgarh],” said a senior party leader.
Earlier this month, the national party leadership in a similar meeting with core group leaders from Rajasthan, another state where the party unit is faction-ridden, had indicated that the BJP is likely to go to elections without announcing a chief ministerial candidate.