Politicians by and large are opportunists. And Shivraj is an opportunist of the highest degree. He is good at manipulation and is a silent killer of his political opponents. He is second to none, not even Modi, when it comes to setting his detractors right.” This is what a veteran BJP leader has to say about the Madhya Pradesh chief minister on condition of anonymity. He should know: he has worked at close quarters with Chouhan.
“Shivraj’s ambition started soaring when a non-bailable warrant was issued against Uma Bharti, the then chief minister of MP, in August 2004. He started working his way up by aligning with Lal Krishna Advani and presented himself as an obvious choice to replace Bharti,” he adds. However, Uma Bharti threw cold water on his plans when she recommended loyalist Babulal Gaur’s name as her replacement.
Within a year, Babulal Gaur was embroiled in a number of controversies. “Chouhan ensured that the media was always on Gaur’s trail. He fed local media with even the smallest negative news related with the Gaur administration,” the BJP veteran tells TEHELKA. When he was removed in November 2005, Chouhan was sworn in as chief minister of MP. Since then, he has moved from strength to strength within the party, though not without a few serious allegations of corruption and misuse of office.
The first serious allegation to hit Chouhan and his wife Sadhna Singh was in 2007. The scam was named the “Dumper Scam”. It was alleged that the chief minister’s wife had purchased four dumpers, used in the construction business, at a price of Rs 2 crore and leased them to a prominent cement factory of MP. The complaint was filed by a local Congress party worker Ramesh Sahu. In his complaint, Sahu alleged that Sadhna Singh named her husband as SR Singh at the time of purchase and also gave a false residential address. The Opposition, which was lying low in MP at that time, swung into action and demanded a cbi inquiry in the scam. As the allegation was against the CM and his wife, the Opposition wanted Chouhan to step down till his name was cleared.
Despite mounting pressure from the Opposition, neither was the matter referred to cbi, nor did Chouhan step down. The scam was handed over to the Lokayukta after cases under section 420 of IPC and Prevention of Corruption Act against the chief minister and his wife were registered in November 2007. The clamour surrounding the scam died a natural death in 2011 after the Lokayukta submitted a report before the court observing that the investigators could not find anything substantial against Chouhan and his wife.
After what was seen as a clean chit in the Dumper Scam, the chief minister was from time to time accused by the Opposition of helping the mining and liquor lobbies in the state — but it failed to come out with anything concrete against him.
The MP chief minister faced a bad press again in July 2013. During a raid by the state income tax department on two prominent Bhopal-based businessmen Sudhir Sharma and Dilip Suryavanshi, the tax sleuths recovered diaries with entries implicating two ministers in Chouhan’s Cabinet. The diaries allegedly contained the details of bribes given to then mineral resources minister Rajendra Shukla and technical education and public relations minister Laxmikant Sharma. The Opposition accused the chief minister for shielding his allegedly corrupt cabinet colleagues. The matter is being investigated at a snail’s pace.
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While Chouhan was busy distancing himself from his allegedly corrupt Cabinet colleagues, he got embroiled in the “mother of all scams in MP” in recent memory. Initially, when the Vyapam scam was unearthed in 2013, though the Opposition made some noises and asked for Chouhan’s resignation, but with media adopting an indifferent attitude, it failed to catch the attention of the masses in its initial stages. With spates of suspicious deaths in recent times, it is clear that for the MP chief minister, it won’t be easy this time to duck his responsibilities. He is now in the thick of the worst crisis in his political career.