Scindia's shadow on MP govt; road ahead is tough for Shivraj Singh Chouhan

Of the 22 breakaway Congress MLAs, who had jumped ship along with Jyotiraditya Scindia, 14 are now ministers in the Chouhan government
"Manthan ke baad amrit hi nikalta hai, jo vish nikalta hai Shiv usse pee jate hain (churning produces nectar and Lord Shiva drinks the poison).” Just a day before the Cabinet expansion, when Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said this last Wednesday, it was a clear admission that he had to face a lot of pressure while finalising the names of his new cabinet colleagues.

It was clear from the beginning that in his fourth term as chief minister, Chouhan might not get the ministers he wanted. This was confirmed when the list of ministers came out. Chouhan seems to have hardly any confidants except Bhupendra Singh from Sagar. His other aides like Rampal Singh, Rajendra Shukla, and Gaurishankar Bisen have been omitted. Prominent among those who lost berths was Sanjay Pathak, who played an important role in the return of the BJP to power.
Scindia all over                                

Jyotiraditya Scindia, whose rebellion against the Congress brought down the previous Kamal Nath-led Congress government in March this year, emerged a clear winner in this battle. Eleven Scindia supporters got a berth in the Cabinet. Of the nine former Congress MLAs who support Scindia and were administered oath, Mahendra Singh Sisodiya, Prabhuram Choudhary, Pradhuman Singh Tomar, and Imarti Devi were ministers in the Kamal Nath government as well.

Two of his supporters — Tulsi Silawat and Govind Singh Rajpoot — were ministers in the BJP government earlier. In all, 14 of the 22 breakaway Congress MLAs are now ministers.

Ramesh Mendola, close confident of party General Secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya, could not make it to the final list. The rivalry between Vijayvargiya and Chouhan is no secret.

“Scindia has extracted his price at the expense of Chouhan. BJP leaders who were left out will work against the interests of the Scindia loyalists in the upcoming byelections,” said senior journalist and political analyst Rakesh Dixit.

‘‘Scindia has no great influence in the region (Gwalior-Chambal). When the wind blew in favour of the Congress, his supporters won. Where was his influence in the elections of 2003, 2008, and 2013?” Dixit asked.

Another point to note is that among the 16 new ministers who were in the BJP, only seven were in the Cabinet earlier.
Senior political analyst Girija Shankar said: “Scindia’s deal was with the high command. Some former BJP ministers who have been dropped may be upset but will soon understand the situation.”

By-elections a crucial factor
The Gwalior-Chambal and Malwa regions, where most of of the 24 by-elections are scheduled to be held, have been given a disproportionate representation. Eleven new ministers were inducted from the Gwalior-Chambal region, taking the total to 12. Malwa (the Indore and Ujjain region) got seven more ministers and the representation is now eight. In the 230-member Assembly, the BJP has 107 MLAs and it needs nine more MLAs to secure a majority.

The apprehension is that many BJP leaders who missed ministerial berths or who have been opposed to Scindia (in Gwalior-Chambal) will not accept his elevation lying down. Narendra Singh Tomar, Jaibhan Singh Pavaiya, Prabhat Jha, Narottam Mishra, and Pathak are some of them.

There is only one minister from Mahakoshal (the Jabalpur/Chhindwara region), to which Kamal Nath belongs. Madhya Prant, inclusive of Bhopal, got only two ministers and the Nimar region, in southwest Madhya Pradesh, also two. It’s also two for the Vindhya region, where the BJP won the maximum number of seats.

It is clear that the road ahead is tough for Chouhan. A BJP leader said several former ministers including Pathak and Gauri Shankar Bisen were angry with the party leadership and their resentment could damage the party’s prospects in the by-elections.

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