By L.S. Herdenia
BHOPAL: The Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan has achieved a remarkable feat. On November 29, he completed 12 years in office. No other chief minister has ruled the state for so long. Digvijay Singh had completed 10 years (1993-2003) as chief minister. Before him, only Dr. Kailashnath Katju and Arjun Singh could complete their 5-year terms. In post-Independence India, Jyoti Basu was the only politician who served as chief minister for three decades. Chouhan’s remarkable achievement is being celebrated with great fanfare by the BJP in the state.
A special programme was organised in Bhopal to felicitate Chouhan. Haryana Governor Kaptan Singh Solanki conferred the Subhash Chandra Bose Netratva Award on the chief minister.
Talking to media, Chouhan, thanked the people of Madhya Pradesh for the remarkable support given to him during last 12 years and said he was confident that the BJP was going to win with a thumping majority in the assembly elections due next year.
He said that the party had given him the go-ahead to lead the campaign. His focus, he said, would be on creating jobs for the youth and ushering in ‘acche din’ for farmers.
Recalling his early days as CM, Chouhan counted increasing the area under irrigation as his biggest achievement. “When I took over, only 6.5 lakh hectare land was irrigated. Now, irrigation covers 40 lakh hectares and the farmers can grow three crops in a year. Ever since I took over 12 years ago, my focus was on irrigation since 65 per cent of people in Madhya Pradesh are dependent on farming,” he said.
Asked about the growing unrest among farmers in the state, the CM said that his government has always been with the farmers. “We are rolling out schemes like Bhavantar Bhugtan Yojana, so that they get the best price for their produce. What happened then (the farmer agitation in June) was a temporary phase,” he said.
Opposition leaders, however, termed Chouhan’s claims of all-round progress as hollow. There is absolutely no reason for celebrations, they insisted.
In a series of tweets on Wednesday evening, Congress MP Jyotiraditya Scindia and other leaders targetted Chouhan and the BJP government on issues spanning from farmers’ suicides to corruption and infant mortality. “Please tell us, why you are celebrating completion of 12 years in office? In 2016, 63 infants died every day and within a year, the number of malnourished children multiplied three times to 26,000,” he tweeted. “Eleven patients died of lack of oxygen in MY Hospital in Indore and infant mortality in Madhya Pradesh is the highest in the country. Who is responsible?” he asked.
In another tweet, the party’s chief whip in the Lok Sabha said that farmers of Madhya Pradesh are compelled to “throw their produce on the roads”. “Increase in cost of production, stagnant minimum support price, falling rates at mandis and no immediate payment if agricultural produce is sold. Is Bhavantar an armour for farmers or a conspiracy to fester the wounds of farmers?” Scindia wondered.
In a direct question to the chief minister, the Congress leader said, “You say farmers are happy. Yet, in the same state, during an agricultural crisis the victim farmer is called an anti-social?” He said police fired on protesting farmers in Mandsaur; kisans were stripped and beaten in Tikamgarh, and in Narsinghpur agriculturists painted the walls of the collectorate with their blood”. Continuing his attack on Chouhan, the MP tweeted, “In the heart of India, a farmer commits suicide every five hours. In the past 12 years. 21,000 farmers ended their lives. Do you see their agony or is this the stark truth behind the state winning Krishi Karman Award?” In other tweets, he accused the BJP government of corruption in Vyapam and Simhastha Kumbh preparations.
Amid BJP leaders showering fulsome praises on the chief minister, BJP veteran Babulal Gaur struck a discordant note. “Former chief minister Arjun Singh’s tenure was also “bemisaal,” he said on Wednesday in an apparent reference to the slogan “barah saal bemisaal” (unmatched 12 years) coined for eulogising Chouhan’s 12-year-long rule. Gaur did not stop at that. He also took a jibe at the slogan, which only praises Chouhan’s rule and not BJP.
The BJP had come to power in the state in 2003 while Chouhan had taken over as the chief minister in 2005. “Instead of barah saal bemisaal, they should say chaudah saal bemisaal,” Gaur said. Gaur said that the entire tenure of the BJP government was “bemisaal”. He was referring to his tenure as state’s CM too.
Home minister Bhupendra Singh declined to comment on Gaur’s jibe. He said that as Arjun Singh was no more, he would not say anything about him.
Ministers Maya Singh and Paras Jain said that Chouhan has reached out to very section of society and that is why his tenure was “bemisaal”. Union minister Uma Bharati tweeted that Chouhan has done great work by leading the government formed by her in 2003 to victory in two consecutive elections. (IPA Service)