New Delhi: In what appeared to be a hushed affair, Shivraj Singh Chouhan on Monday evening was sworn-in as the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh for the fourth time – 15 months after his government was voted out of power.
He took the oath at a small event hosted by governor Lalji Tandon at Raj Bhawan at 9 pm after Chouhan was elected the BJP’s legislature party leader at a party meeting on Monday evening.
Following Jyotiraditya Scindia’s resignation from the Congress, and a coordinated rebellion by 22 MLAs, including six ministers, the Kamal Nath government was pushed into minority. The former chief minister resigned as he could not muster enough numbers to prove his majority despite a determined effort to woo back the rebel legislators.
In the days following his resignation, the state became government-less and leaderless even as it battled the deadly spread of the novel coronavirus. Amidst the prevailing confusion and a chaotic situation, many observers held both Scindia and the BJP responsible for precipitating a political crisis in the state at a wrong time.
The BJP was first supposed to hold a meeting on Saturday to discuss the matter, but it was postponed. On Monday, the meeting was suddenly called to choose the chief minister and the governor organised Chouhan’s oath-taking ceremony within hours of his being elected as the party’s legislature party leader.
Hectic deliberations preceded the swearing-in. According to sources, Chouhan pipped BJP leaders like state leaders like Narrotam Mishra, and Union ministers from Madhya Pradesh like Thawar Chand Gehlot, Prahlad Singh Patel and Narendra Singh Tomar in the race for state leadership.
Scindia is said to have opposed Mishra and Tomar who also come from Gwalior-Chambal region for the chief minister’s position, and preferred Chouhan over others. But a section of BJP’s national leadership felt that the party should develop new leadership in the state as it lost the last assembly polls under Chouhan.
However, the 61-year-old Chouhan’s state-wide popularity in the state tilted the scales in his favour eventually.
At 6 pm, when the BJP MLAs met in Bhopal, it was a given that Chouhan will lead them. Due to the coronavirus situation, no BJP leader from Delhi travelled to Bhopal for the legislature party meeting, though the party’s central observers Arun Singh and Vinay Sahasrabuddhe participated through video conferencing. Most BJP MLAs at the meeting wore masks and maintained a good distance between each other. The party had already asked cadres not to gather at the BJP office in Bhopal.
Popularly known among his followers as ‘Mamaji’, Chouhan was sworn in chief minister of Madhya Pradesh thrice earlier – in 2005, after Uma Bharti stepped down over a riots case, and for later two full terms in 2008 and 2013.
He stepped down after the Congress won a narrow majority in the December 2018 assembly elections, after which the Kamal Nath government came to power.
(With inputs from PTI)