A year before the 2014 general elections, the then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi was waiting for the BJP to announce his prime ministerial candidature. However, a group within the party led by veteran Advani wanted the announcement deferred till after the state elections slated towards the end of the year. The highly successful Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan was expected to win a third term. It is believed that the Advani faction wanted Chouhan to be in contention for the prime ministerial candidature in order to scuttle the Modi juggernaut. However, the party knew fully well how this could blow up on its face. It went ahead and announced Modi’s candidature and made him the party’s face for the upcoming state elections as well. Chouhan won handsomely, but he is nowhere in contention for the top job today.
However, this might change eight years down the line. Imagine the following scenario: Shivraj Singh Chouhan has held his fortress for a fourth time. Narendra Modi is nearing the end of his second term. He is also nearing the self-imposed retirement age of seventy-five. Chouhan on the other hand is the most respected chief minister of the country with ten years of politics still to go. The RSS loves him, and those who generally dislike the BJP like him too for his Iftaar parties and his donning of the scull-cap. His most important credential of course is that he has single-handedly pulled his state out of the unholy BIMARU foursome. Wouldn’t he simply make the perfect prime ministerial candidate?
This is wishful thinking. But let’s go back to him working towards getting rid of the BIMARU tag for his state. What one takes back from this is that Shivraj Singh Chouhan isn’t just a wily politician. Chouhan is someone who makes a positive difference. We must keep in mind that Madhya Pradesh unlike Gujarat, isn’t exactly fertile ground for positive difference. BIMARU is an acronym for four states: Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh. In Hindi, the word means ‘sick’. Despite adverse circumstances, Madhya Pradesh today has the fastest growing economy of all states. Its agricultural growth too exceeds all other states.
Indeed, agriculture has been the driving force of Madhya Pradesh’s economy. Eighty percent of the state’s population is agrarian. Under Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the state underwent what can best be described as a second green revolution. Unlike the green revolution of the sixties and seventies which was mostly wheat-based, this edition included several crops and commodities. In the last ten years, Chouhan has focused on five key factors: bringing more land under cultivation, largescale irrigation, increase in power supply, building of grain storage capacity and growth in fertilizer consumption. In ten years, he has decisively achieved more than what was achieved in sixty years of Congress rule. Twenty-one percent more land is under cultivation today. Three hundred percent more land is irrigated. Power supply has increased by eighty-seven percent. Grain storage capacity has more than doubled. Fertilizer consumption has increased by over fifty percent.
One can accuse the administration of having a one-track agenda, but the fact still remains that it has delivered. The lack of industrialization is something Shivraj Singh Chouhan acknowledges, but he’s working towards making amends to years of Congress misrule. The recent investors’ summit pledged a hundred billion dollars to the state. Since agriculture production is the state’s strong suit, a policy has been drafted to make the state a food processing behemoth. It is believed that Shivraj Singh Chouhan was the chief minister who convinced prime minister Modi to drop the land acquisition bill, so that states like his are not held to ransom by the opposition and can draft their own land legislations. What is interesting is that in the last five years of Congress rule under Digvijay Singh, the average economic growth was less than two percent. The average of Chouhan’s first five years was over eight percent. Currently, it grows at over thirteen percent. Digvijay and Chouhan have very contrasting personalities. The former chief minister is considered to be a loudmouth, while Chouhan is known for his humility. Madhya Pradesh’s political arena is the perfect example of actions speaking louder than words.
The other area where Shivraj Singh Chouhan has been a pioneer is women empowerment.
Chouhan launched three schemes early in his term, which support school going girls, to-be brides and pregnant women financially. These were launched with the sole aim of reducing female infanticide, and were met with resounding success. The beauty of these schemes is that the target isn’t a particular class, caste or creed. Lakhs of women across the spectrum have benefited from these schemes. Several states have emulated these schemes now. The union government’s flagship Beti Bachao Bati Padhao scheme is also inspired by Madhya Pradesh.
Whenever a right wing chief minister shows potential and becomes a major threat for the Congress, India’s grand old party unleashes its cartel of journalists and intellectuals to taint their reputations and arrest their careers. When it comes to Narendra Modi, some eminent personalities still eat, sleep and breathe 2002. More recently, we have come to know how the Manmohan government put national security at risk in its attempts to frame Narendra Modi and Amit Shah. Likewise, Shivraj Singh Chouhan has been a victim of political falsehood. He was first accused in the Dumper Scam in 2007. The state ombudsman (Lokayukta) acquitted him. Fingers were pointed in his direction when the Vyapam Scam came to light. Some people chose to conveniently forget that it was in fact his government which unearthed this massive scam.
Shivraj Singh Chouhan remains unperturbed. Muck is often thrown at him, but he moves on quietly with his developmental agenda. The media heaps praise on Nitish Kumar’s achievements in a backward state, and blatantly ignores Chouhan. But Chouhan isn’t here for the recognition, all he cares about is his state’s progress. Politicians who are effective and down to earth at the same time, are a rarity. Election after election, Madhya Pradesh’s masses rise and roar their approval for the man.
More power to you Mr. Shivraj Singh Chouhan. Happy birthday!