Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the BJP’s four-time Chief Minister in Madhya Pradesh, will be the party’s face and Chief Ministerial candidate in the coming assembly elections in the state, sources have told NDTV. But given the party’s defeat to the Congress in 2019, there are plans to tweak his image and recalibrate the party’s approach, sources said.
Mr Chouhan has been given the freedom to rethink his new personna. The Chief Minister, fondly referred to as “mama” (maternal uncle), will retain his humble and inclusive image, especially among women, tribals and Dalits.
But in view of the growing law and order issues and corruption charges against his government, Mr Chouhan plans to come across as a strict administrator, sources have said. The development plank of the party will be buttressed through new schemes and programmes.
To that end, there will also be an expansion of Mr Chouhan’s cabinet — one of the staples of the party ahead of elections, especially in the Hindi belt. The Central leadership, sources said, has already green-lighted the cabinet expansion. A number of sitting MLAs will also be dropped under the other tried and tested formula, sources said.
The BJP, the sources added, is banking on the strength of its grassroot level organization in the state, which it has been ruling since 2005.
The party has already conducted digital verification of 62,000 of the 65,000 booth committees. The committees have been asked to start a voter outreach programme. Each booth committee was given its voter list and an analysis of the results of the last two assembly and two Lok Sabha elections.
Besides, they have also been handed a list of beneficiaries of state and central government schemes who are to be contacted.
Sources said the party will use its workers to improve the implementation of government schemes. For example, they will get the forms of Ladli Bahna Yojana filled, which will help strengthen direct contact with the people.
The workers are also expected to collect ideas and feedback from areas under their booth on what steps the state should take in the next six months. This would include micro-level changes, like anyone’s need for a pucca house or a toilet.
Each booth committee has been asked to identify and contact influential persons in their area who can influence voters.
The party is planning to mobilise workers and focus on tribal welfare and women-oriented schemes like Ladli Behna. There is also be considerable focus on achievements in agriculture and road sectors.
Mr Chouhan, who was out of power for 16 months after the defeat of 2018, returned to power two years later with the defection of Jyotiraditya Scindia and more than 20 MLAs loyal to him.
In 2018, the Congress had emerged as the single largest party with 114 seats, two short of majority in the 230-member assembly. The BJP was marginally behind with 109 seats, but garnered a larger vote share — 41.02 per cent to Congress’s 40.89 per cent – a situation that is adding to its hopes for a record fifth term in the state.