When a 16-year-old Shivraj Singh Chouhan was elected president of students union in Model School, Bhopal, no one could have guessed that he would one day become chief minister of Madhya Pradesh for three consecutive terms. The soft-spoken and demure chief minister of the state is looking towards a fourth term in the state where his party had more than 15 years back managed to break the stronghold of the Congress. Ever since 2003 Madhya Pradesh has been a BJP bastion and majority of this period Chouhan has been at the top of it all. In the days immediately preceding the election, the mood in the state was mixed in terms of whether or not Chouhan could rule for a fourth term. As the results showed the BJP and the Congress were in a neck to neck battle up until this morning, after which the Congress emerged as the single largest party with 114 seats and approached the Governor to stake a claim to the government. Chouhan, on the other hand, conceded his defeat and has tendered his resignation.
Born in March 1959 at Budhni in Madhya Pradesh, Chouhan is a gold medalist in Philosophy from Barkatullah University. After his brief introduction to politics in school, he soon came in touch with the Jana Sangh and was part of the underground movement against the Emergency during the mid-1970s. He was one among the many whose opposition to Indira Gandhi’s rule had landed them in jail during the period.
Through the next few years, he remained a part of the Jana Sangh and later the Bharatiya Janata Party. His active presence in politics started out from the early 1990s when he became a convener of the Akhil Bhartiya Keshariya Vahini. In 1990 he was also elected into the state Assembly for the first time from Budhni. The following year he earned a seat in the Lok Sabha from Vidisha constituency and retained his seat till 2005 when he was made the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh.
Chouhan retained his chief ministerial position for the next 13 years. During this period he carried out a few populist measures like free television sets and rice at Rupee 1 for the poor. The highlight of his administration, however, would be the kind of welfare measures he carried out for the benefit of women. The most talked about among them is the Ladli Lakshmi Yojna, aimed at eradicating female infanticide. As per the programme, every time a girl child is born in families below a certain income level, the State buys a National Savings Certificate worth Rs 6000 which then accumulates over the years and is paid to the parents in bulk in accordance with the age and educational qualification of the girl. While the measure did attract nationwide attention, it was not as frequently made use of by the people due to complications in its details. More popular among Chouhan’s measures though is the Kanyadhan Yojana that offers a certain amount to poor families during their daughter’s marriage. Yet another favoured welfare measure is the Janani Suraksha Yojana wherein the State provided adequate health and economic support to a pregnant woman till the time of its delivery.
Chouhan can hardly boast of a persona or oratory skills like that of prime minister Narendra Modi. What has worked for him so far is the groundwork he has carried out in favour of the poor and marginalised in his state. However, that is not to say that his tenure has been without any criticism as he found himself and his government mired in corruption scandals on several occasions. In 2007, he and his wife were allegedly involved in the ‘dumper scam’. Yet again in 2013, his government was accused of irregularities in the entrance examination for recruitment in government jobs. The Vyapam scam had resulted in the arrest of several important politicians and bureaucrats and was a severe blow to the chief minister’s political career.
Despite the pro-development and pro-poor image maintained by the chief minister, the state continues to witness one of the highest numbers of farmer suicide cases annually. Further, the Mandsaur firing last year leading to the deaths of five protesting farmers has also tarnished his image in recent times. In addition, of course, the anti-incumbency factor was strong in a state that had been experiencing a sense of fatigue at the cost of being governed by the same party for over ten years. As the people’s mandate shows, despite the strong fight, Chouhan could not win against the odds built over the last thirteen years.
Assembly Election Results 2018: Rajasthan | Madhya Pradesh | Telangana | Chhattisgarh | Mizoram
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines