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Shivraj Singh Chouhan: the 'Mama' who held sway in MP for 15 years

twitter-logo PTI        Last Updated: December 12, 2018  | 18:03 IST

Bhopal, Dec 11 (PTI) From being called "Paon paon wale bhaiya" (foot soldier) by villagers to being addressed as "Mama" (maternal uncle) by children, Shivraj Singh Chouhan just four days ago said he is the "biggest pollster" and predicted a BJP victory in Madhya Pradesh. But the BJP remained short by 7 seats for a simple majority on its own in the crucial Hindi heartland state and Wednesday's outcome in the Assembly polls put paid to Chouhan's hopes of seeking a record fourth term as chief minister. Having a carefully cultivated image of a family man coupled with simplicity, Chouhan, 59, led the BJP's campaign, presenting himself as one among the people, promising further development. Assiduously working on his 'son of the soil' image, the soft-spoken leader easily identified himself with the socio-economic concerns of farmers, villagers and commoners. He maintained a low profile, ignoring comparisons with Prime Minister Narendra Modi but concentrated on MP. "I am the biggest surveyor (pollster) as I remain in the midst of public all day long. The BJP will win, " said Chouhan after visiting the famous Shree Pitambara Peeth temple in Datia in Madhya Pradesh last Saturday. He was asked by reporters about the exit polls the previous day that predicted a close fight between the BJP and the opposition Congress. "Abki baar, 200 par (this time, over 200 seats)," Chouhan said repeating the BJP's slogan for the MP polls. At the end of a cliffhanger, BJP garnered 109 seats in the 230-member Assembly. It won 163 seats in the 2013 Assembly polls. The BJP, however, drew comfort from the fact that its vote share at 41 per cent was marginally higher than that secured by the Congress which bagged 40.9 per cent of the votes. The Congress got 114 seats, two less than the majority mark of 116. During his 15-year-tenure in the office, Chouhan transformed himself from being a shy, simple and vulnerable politician to a wily leader with mass appeal. Though the Opposition Congress linked Chouhan to the multi-crore Vyapam scam, he emerged unscathed. The CBI gave a clean chit to Chouhan. The Vyapam scandal was an entrance examination, admission and recruitment scam that was unearthed in 2013. It involved politicians, senior and junior officials and businessmen systematically employing imposters to write papers, manipulate exam hall seating arrangements and supply forged answer sheets by allegedly bribing officials. Born on March 5, 1959 to a farming family of Prem Singh Chouhan and Sundar Bai Chouhan at village Jait in Sehore district, Chouhan's political journey began with the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) when he was just 13 years. His leadership skills first came to the fore when he was elected as president of the Model Higher Secondary School students' union in 1975. He participated in the underground movement against Emergency and was imprisoned in 1976-77 and also on many other occasions for political agitations and public causes. A volunteer of the RSS since 1977, Chouhan is a gold medalist in Masters of Philosophy from the Barkatulla University in Bhopal. Chouhan replaced Babulal Gaur as chief minister on November 29, 2005 and remained in the saddle since then unchallenged till the party's defeat at the hustings Wednesday. He also served as general secretary of the BJP and president of the party's MP unit. Chouhan was first elected to the state Assembly from Budhni constituency in 1990. He was elected a Member of Parliament for the first time from the Vidisha constituency the following year. He was re-elected from the seat in 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2004. He won his fifth Lok Sabha election with an impressive margin of over 2,60,000 votes. His fortunes, were, however, set to take another direction two years after the BJP, led by fiery sanyasin-politician Uma Bharti, swept the state Assembly polls in 2003. At that time, Chouhan contested the polls unsuccessfully against the incumbent chief minister Digvijay Singh from Raghogarh. Soon, Bharti resigned and Gaur became the chief minister in 2004, only to be replaced by Chouhan the next year. Chouhan's Ladli Laxmi Yojna, Mukhya Mantri Kanyadan Yojna, Mukhya Mantri Teerth Darshan Yojna, bicycle scheme for school children, Re 1 per kg rice and Rs 2 per kg wheat schemes and the Sambal Yojna offering electricity at Rs 200 were emulated by some other states. Under his leadership, the state became self-dependent in power sector and was supplying uninterrupted electricity for 24 hours to non-agriculture consumers and 10-hour dedicated supply to agriculture consumers. Under Chouhan's leadership, Indore and Bhopal got the "cleanest city" awards under the 'Swachh Bharat Abhiyan'. Chouhan also undertook the 'Namami Devi Narmade yatra' to initiate steps for conservation of Narmada, considered as the lifeline of Madhya Pradesh, by planting a large number of tress on the banks of the river. PTI MAS GK VT GSN GSN GSN

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