Move over Modi, here comes Mama: It was Shivraj all the way in run-up to MP Assembly polls

Bhopal: Whether Shivraj Singh Chouhan retains the tenancy of the sprawling CM House on Shymala Hills in the city after December 11 is anybody’s guess, but what is certain is that Chouhan loomed large on the campaign for the Assembly polls in the state. It was a classic case of ‘You can love me or hate me but cannot ignore me’.

The cacophony of campaigning ceased on Monday to give the voters time to contemplate. And one can bet that this contemplation would also revolve around Shivraj – on whether the people want the Mama to continue to preside over their destiny for the next one years or not.

Hamara Neta Shivraj

The BJP’s ad campaign was centred on Shivraj, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the margins. The punchline of its much-talked about publicity blitzkrieg in the traditional and social media was ‘Maaf Karo Maharaj, Hamara Neta Shivraj’. The video and print versions of the campaign carried pictures of both Shivraj and Modi – almost equal in size, with the chief minister in the foreground.

“Shivraj Singh himself wanted it. After all, who does not like to be in the limelight,” says political analyst Girijashankar. According to him, making a campaign person-centric ensures that issues take a back seat.

BJP’s USP

Even Modi and Amit Shah talked more about how Shivraj had helped the state get rid of the BIMARU tag and propel it on the fast track to development with the speed of a Jaguar racing car, than about anything else. “As far as Shivraj Singh Chouhan is concerned, he is BJP’s USP (unique selling point) in Madhya Pradesh,” Uma Bharati told a wire agency on Sunday.

And Chouhan too focussed mainly on the achievements of his government and on how the Congress rule in the state was an unmitigated disaster, with only fleeting references to the Modi Raj.

Part of strategy?

Watchers of the election scene say that this could be a strategy on the part of the BJP. “Its campaign in Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh also focussed on Vasundhara Raje and Raman Singh respectively,” says one. The party knows very well that it is not very comfortably faced in any of the three states and had Modi taken the driver’s seat in the campaign, a defeat, or even a setback in terms of number of seats, could have dented the image of Narendra Bhai. With the General Elections due just six months from now, this would have been disastrous for the party. It simply cannot afford Modi losing his sheen.

DeMon, GST blues

However, there is another interpretation, too. And that is that Modi carries with him the baggage of demonetisation and GST blues and more recently, of the Rafale deal. “Modi was an unmatched vote-gatherer in 2013. But that is no longer so,” says Girijashankar. In fact, he says, the candidates were more keen at having Shivraj campaign for them rather than Modi.

Be that as it may, the Congress too focussed on attacking Shivraj on issues ranging from corruption to fudging data. The party did not try to make failures of the Modi government – real or perceived – its poll plank.

This means that if the BJP continues with its winning spree, it would add another feather to Shivraj’s hat. And if it loses, well, the blame will be laid on his doorstep.