In the 2018 election the won 114 seats to the BJP’s 109 and formed the government (File).

New Delhi:

Sources in the Bharatiya Janata Party have played down talk that Shivraj Singh Chouhan – its longest-serving chief minister – might not feature in its plans for the election due in Madhya Pradesh this year. Top BJP sources told NDTV this morning that reports he is to be denied a ticket are wrong, but the caveat – that “any big leader can become chief minister post-election” – is unlikely to end speculation.

The BJP has put out two lists so far and, in an unusual move, these include three union ministers – Narendra Tomar, Prahlad Patel, and Faggan Singh Kulaste – and its national general secretary, Kailash Vijayvargiya, as well as others who are sitting parliamentarians. The strength of these lists have been called out by the opposition Congress, which has mocked the ruling party for “accepting defeat”.

BJP sources have responded to that jibe by pointing out that no sitting Madhya Pradesh minister has been named so far – seen by some as another sign Mr Chouhan is to be dropped. The same sources have also insisted fielding MPs and union ministers sends a message of “collective leadership”.

READ | BJP Won’t Project Chief Minister Faces In Hindi-Speaking States: Sources

The party is focused on “curbing nepotism” and winning seats, and regional leaders must now prove their worth to the BJP’s national command in order to get a shot at state elections, sources claimed.

Significantly, the BJP’s apparent move to the “unity” message comes in a state where it is likely to face an undivided opposition – the INDIA bloc which may contest this election together rather than squabble amongst themselves, as they might do in states like Bengal, Punjab, and Kerala.

The BJP’s move to field some of its biggest names in a state poll also seems to underline it is working towards strengthening seats in which it believes it is weak and susceptible to opposition attacks.

So far the BJP has named 79 candidates but there are 151 seats still up for grabs in an election that will, once again, see Prime Minister Narendra Modi as the party’s driving force.

READ | BJP Pulls Out Top Guns In Madhya Pradesh, Trouble For Shivraj Chouhan?

Meanwhile, Mr Chouhan continues to play the team game.

“This is wonderful and unprecedented…” he said in his first reaction to the lists, “All our top leaders will contest. This will ensure a mega victory for us.”

And on Monday he addressed a party workers meeting in Bhopal and attacked the Congress for having made Madhya Pradesh a ‘BIMARU’ state and praised his government for having removed that tag.

“Remember that dark phase… when Congress made Madhya Pradesh a ‘bimaru rajya‘ (a ‘sick’ state, referring to states that perform poorly on key economic indicators). We have removed that stigma…”

READ | Removed Congress Made Madhya Pradesh ‘Bimaru Rajya’ Stigma: Shivraj Chouhan

Congress Reacts To Shivraj Chouhan Buzz

The Congress sees a chance of flipping the state it lost in 2020 (two years into its five-year term), after Jyotiraditya Scindia and nearly two dozen lawmakers joined the BJP to topple its government.

Kamal Nath, who was forced to resign as Chief Minister, said failing to name Mr Chouhan “is a sure seal of internal defeat by BJP, which claims to be a party of crores of workers”.

The BJP is facing a crisis of lack of confidence. This time it will see its biggest defeat in its biggest stronghold… Congress is going to win double the seats. The BJP’s ‘double engine’ government is moving towards double defeat,” he posted on X (formerly Twitter).

Another Congress leader, Randeep Surjewala, claimed the BJP is now afraid of the opposition.

The Congress formed the government after the 2018 election led to a hung Assembly; it won 114 seats to the BJP’s 109 but the latter party won the popular vote. However, the Congress government fell after Mr Scindia and rebel lawmakers joined the BJP, leaving Kamal Nath with no option but resign.

Post source: Ndtvnews

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