CHOUHAN’S FRIEND­SHIP ME­TER

The Mad­hya Pradesh Chief Min­is­ter’s non- con­fronta­tion­ist style wins him many al­lies

India Today - - THE BIG STORY - with Le­muel Lall

SHIVRAJ SINGH CHOUHAN Apro­tégé of Sun­dar Lal Patwa, he was close to Pramod Mahajan and was propped up as chief min­is­ter in 2005 by him when BJP was in dis­ar­ray fol­low­ing the re­moval of Uma Bharati when Bab­u­lal Gaur was serv­ing as a stop­gap.

BJP is gun­ning for a hat- trick in the Novem­ber Assem­bly elec­tions. At the same time, he is not averse to dis­cussing Modi. “There has been a lot of de­vel­op­ment in Gu­jarat,” he says. “Modiji is be­ing spo­ken of highly be­cause of all he has achieved. He had a five- year head­s­tart on us. We have dif­fer­ent prob­lems here. Hope­fully, in five years, peo­ple will no­tice Mad­hya Pradesh the same way they have no­ticed Gu­jarat.” To put it sim­ply, Chouhan has the band­width and the pa­tience to wait un­til 2019 if needed.

GOOD, BAD, UGLY

Chouhan greets all vis­i­tors to his of­fice — dec­o­rated with a gi­ant pho­to­graph of his idol Swami Vivekananda, whose lit­er­ary works he de­scribes as the ful­crum of his ex­is­tence— with sweet tea and a beam­ing smile. On his desk are a small national flag, a minia­ture fig­ure of Ashoka’s four lions, a glass- top work­sta­tion, and no com­puter. Un­der Chouhan, the state has been pro­pelled for­ward on a num­ber of eco­nomic in­di­ca­tors. Be­ing a 67 per cent agrar­ian econ­omy, he has de­liv­ered in­ter­est- free loans to farm­ers, a spe­cial bonus to wheat and rice grow­ers, and en­sured reg­u­lar wa­ter for ir­ri­ga­tion.

Go­ing by pro­vi­sional data re­leased by the Cen­tral Sta­tis­ti­cal Or­gan­i­sa­tion for 2012- 13, Mad­hya Pradesh is In­dia’s No. 1 state in terms of growth of gross do­mes­tic prod­uct at 10.02 per cent. Govern­ment fig­ures over the last 10 years show that the road net­work has ex­panded from 14,700 km to 90,000 km. The area un­der ir­ri­ga­tion has tre­bled from 7.5 lakh hectares to 25 lakh hectares. The power gen­er­a­tion ca­pac­ity has in­creased from 4,800 MW to 10,200 MW. Crop pro­duc­tiv­ity has risen from 831 kg to 1,223 kg per hectare. In­dus­trial in­vest­ment has mul­ti­plied ten­fold, from Rs 7,935 crore to Rs 84,700 crore in­clud­ing in­dus­tries still un­der con­struc­tion. One form of in­no­va­tive govern­ment be­ing no­ticed glob­ally is the Pub­lic Ser­vice De­liv­ery Guar­an­tee Act ( 2010), a cit­i­zens’ char­ter that fines of­fi­cials if ba­sic ser­vices such as wa­ter con­nec­tions, ra­tion cards, and birth and mar­riage cer­tifi­cates are not given within a fixed time;

15.7 mil­lion ap­pli­ca­tions have been dis­posed of across 52 pub­lic ser­vices.

But Mad­hya Pradesh is still lag­ging be­hind on hu­man in­dex in­di­ca­tors. Its lit­er­acy rate for women is 60 per cent, and its in­fant mor­tal­ity rate is 59 per 1,000 births, way be­low the national aver­age of 44. Crime against women con­tin­ues to be a prob­lem, high­lighted by the gang rape of a Swiss tourist in Da­tia on March 15, and the bru­tal vi­o­la­tion of a five- year- old in Seoni on April 17. Deep- rooted bu­reau­cratic cor­rup­tion is a bug­bear, demon­strated by Rs 248 crore in il­le­gal as­sets al­legedly found from raids on IAS- of­fi­cer cou­ple Arvind and Tinu Joshi in 2010.

PO­LIT­I­CAL THINKER

Chouhan chooses a dis­arm­ingly clever de­fence when con­fronted on th­ese is­sues: He ac­cepts there is a prob­lem. “There is poverty in Mad­hya Pradesh. There is the need for bet­ter health­care and more schools. There are crimes against women,” he con­cedes. “A state can be called de­vel­oped only when its peo­ple can live freely and with­out prej­u­dice. When they have ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion and hos­pi­tals. Achiev­ing that is the govern­ment’s top pri­or­ity now.”

Chouhan has started train­ing pro­grammes for teach­ers across vil­lages and opened new med­i­cal col­leges in the hope that lo­cally trained doc­tors will want to re­main in their home state. For women’s em­pow­er­ment, he has in­tro­duced schemes such as Ladli Laxmi Yo­jana, Gaon Ki Beti Yo­jana and Beti Bachao An­dolan. “It’s a long bat­tle. I’m will­ing to fight it,” he says.

Chouhan isn’t wor­ried that IAS of­fi­cers from his state are be­ing hauled up by In­come Tax and the Lokayukta. “It shows we’re crack­ing down. I chal­lenge you to raid bu­reau­crats across In­dia. Do you think you won’t find cash hoarded un­der mat­tresses and in­side pil­low cases in other states?” he asks.

Those who know Chouhan from the mid- 70s re­mem­ber him as a firebrand youth leader who spoke about ris­ing prices, agrar­ian atroc­ity, and lack of de­vel­op­ment. He went to jail dur­ing Emer­gency. His new avatar is more som­bre and work­man­like, hav­ing traded flam­boy­ance for equa­nim­ity.

Over the last few months, Chouhan has been ag­gres­sively mar­ket­ing him­self, try­ing to fash­ion a Modi- style im­age makeover through his Twit­ter ac­count @ chouhanshivraj, which talks about any­thing from new schemes to the dangers of to­bacco. There is talk that he is in dis­cus­sions with APCO World­wide, the Amer­i­can firm cred­ited with Modi’s pub­lic­ity drives.

DE­VEL­OP­MENT A WIN­NER

Chouhan doesn’t shy away from espous­ing po­lit­i­cal the­ory th­ese days. He wants all state and Gen­eral Elec­tions to be held si­mul­ta­ne­ously so par­ties “con­cen­trate on de­vel­op­ment rather than get distracted by one poll or an­other”.

“There are three kinds of an­ti­in­cum­bency,” he says. “First, when the pub­lic is fed up of a cer­tain in­di­vid­ual. Sec­ond, when it wants the en­tire govern­ment out be­cause of cor­rup­tion or lethargy. Third, when the ar­ro­gance of ju­nior work­ers in­cites peo­ple. In­dia now votes on de­vel­op­ment but the same fac­tors that lead to an­ti­in­cum­bency hamper good gov­er­nance as well. We’ll do well be­cause there has been de­vel­op­ment in the state and no de­vel­op­ment at the Cen­tre.”

It’s later in the evening. Chouhan is in his front lawn for an­other round of pic­tures. He stands straight when asked to and places his hands on his waist when re­quested. “We’ve come a long way in eight years,” he says. “But there is far to go.” For Mad­hya Pradesh and, maybe, even for him?

PANKAJ TI­WARI/ www. in­di­a­to­day­im­ages. com

CHOUHAN WITH A WOMAN SUP­PORTER ATARALLYIN BHOPAL

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