After experimenting for 2 years to find a suitable leader who can lead the BJP in Madhya Pradesh’s Vindhya region of, the party’s leadership finally had to rely on an old warhorse – former minister and four-time MLA Rajendra Shukla.
Four-time BJP MLA from Rewa constituency, Shukla was Commerce and Industry Minister in Shivraj Singh Chouhan’s cabinet (2013-2018), and emerged as a prominent face not only in Rewa division but in entire Vindhya region of the state, but was not included in the cabinet after the party got back power after from the Congress in 2020.
An obvious reason was that the BJP had to give the maximum cabinet posts to loyalists of defected Congress leader Jyotiraditya Scindia due to which the party came back to power. Shukla was not only kept outside the cabinet but it is said some top leaders conspired to sideline him from the core group of the party.
In the 2028 Assembly polls, Shukla was in-charge of Vindhya region and the BJP managed to win 25 out of 30 Assembly seats, including Congress stronghold – Churhat in Sidhi district. Also, the BJP won all eight assembly seats from Rewa, the only district in Madhya Pradesh where it won all Assembly seats.
According to political observers, the first and foremost reason for not including Shukla in the cabinet and keeping him sidelined was his growing stature. “In the past few years, Shukla’s political graph has risen manifold and he has become a prominent Brahmin face in Vindhya reason. After the death of Congress leader and former Assembly Speaker Sriniwas Tiwari, Shukla is considered the topmost Brahmin leader in Vindhya region. Some other Brahmin leaders of the region consider him their rival,” said a senior Journalist who has covered MP politics for three decades.
After 2018, the state BJP leadership tried to experiment with some other leaders from Vindhya region. Assembly Speaker Girish Gautam and Cabinet Minister Ram Khelawan Patel and some others were given a push but the experiment failed.
“Despite having won maximum seats from Vindhya region, not a single leader was made cabinet minister, except Girish Gautam who was made Speaker. Though Gautam is also a senior Brahmin leader from Rewa, he remained confined within his own constituency. He was made Speaker to stop Rajendra Shukla from making it to the cabinet,” said another senior political observer.
Tribal leader Bisahu Lal Singh, who also hails from Vindhya region and joined the BJP with Scindia, was given a place in the cabinet.
Political observers claimed that the race for Chief Minister’s chair is another reason that Shukla was kept out of the core group of state BJP for two years. “A faction opposing Chouhan, especially those who are in the race for the Chief Minister’s post backed some other Brahmin faces, because they considered Shukla their main political rival. Since then Shukla’s political graph has seen a tremendous increase.”
The BJP had to fall back on Shukla after Congress started doing its political maths in the Vindhya region as Assembly polls are not far away. “Shukla was included in the core committee and the election committee because the party has to end the factionalism in Vidhya region and to repeat its last performance. It is also because leaders who were given a push from the back end, could not justify their performances in the last two years,” a political analyst said.
Contacted by IANS for his response, Shukla said: “I am one who believes in work. I do not think about what happened in the past. Whenever I was assigned a task, I have tried to give my best. Right now, the party has given me a task in Rewa and Shahdol divisions, I am busy with that. That’s all I can say.”