With BJP chief Amit Shah predicting that Shivraj Singh Chouhan will return to power for a fourth term in MP, the CM jumped into the poll arena with a renewed vigour last week. He is going around the state in his Rs 2.5 crore-chariot seeking votes playing to the gallery and thumping his chest.
Chouhan has been in power for 13 years now. His position within the ruling party has become unassailable, especially over the past five years, with almost all his detractors either vanquished or banished from MP.
That kind of unchallenged power is enough to transform any person. His characteristic humility has given way to chest thumping on public platforms: “Despite a drought, crops are bountiful in Shivraj Singh’s raj.”
When an actor ascends a stage, he assumes a different personality. The result is the same in the case of a politician, it seems. For him the political theatre is the stage, a place to perform.
As he ascends the stage, Chouhan’s persona changes too. Political analysts point out that in his first term Shivraj, a newcomer to state politics, used to give credit for his government’s performance to his party, often using the term ‘we.’ In his second tenure a confident CM shifted from ‘we’ to ‘I.’
Third person singular
Now, in his third term, Chouhan has started referring to himself in third person, like an actor in those Parsi theatres of yore: “It was Shivraj who purchased onions from farmers and threw it out.”
He has gradually developed a penchant for third person singular. In a 24-minute speech at Ratlam this week, for example, he referred to himself in third person 19 times!
His speeches are full of references to Shivraj Singh: “It is Shivraj Singh Chouhan who has converted MP from backward state to a developed state.”
He also loves to refer to himself as Mama, the maternal uncle: “Tell your children that their entire fee will be paid by Mama.” Consoling a 12-year-old girl whose house was burnt in Mandsaur violence he said: “Your Mama is alive. I shall not allow any harm to come to you.”
Sometime, tired of Shivraj and Mama, he refers to himself as Bhaiya, the elder brother: “Tum bill bharo zero, paisa bharega bhaiya,” — you pay zero electricity bills, Bhaiya will provide the money.
The Preacher CM
The tendency to speak about himself in third person is not merely a theatrical skill. Preacher and saints are also known to do that.
Chouhan had once revealed that he would have turned a saint had he not joined politics. He told a journalist: “I wish I could have become a preacher because it gives me immense pleasure and happiness.”
Having joined politics, he is equally clear about what he has to do now. “Politics is a gaming house where everybody is selling his stake,” he had confessed in the same interview.
When he climbs a stage, like any good salesman, he markets himself. “During the Congress regime, CMs used to gain weight, become plump, but I have lost weight in the last 15 years, becoming weaker and thinner, thinking about the people of my state,” he said at a meeting at Raisen.
And hardsell it has to be: “It is Shivraj Singh Chouhan who has converted MP from bimaru state to developed state.”
Rhetoric ka raja
His penchant to use third person singular for himself often leads to bragging and boasting: “Koi mai ka laal paida nahin hua jo hartal karke Shivraj se ek dhela bhi nikalwa le” — you cannot force Shivraj to pay a pie by going on a strike.”
Once he declared, “Shivraj is mitti ka nahin bana hai” Shivraj is made of different metal.
Some people seem to like the rhetoric. One of them is Tarun Sagar, a Jain monk renowned for his fiery oratory. Speaking at a RSS platform earlier this year he praised the “good work and vision” of Chouhan and declared that the MP CM was a prime ministerial material.
Indeed if once sees the government’s pre-election publicity blitz, one would get the impression that the sun rises ever morning due to the efforts of one person. Everything revolves around him, including the ruling party.
Political resolutions of BJP’s state executive are often drafted by so called think tank in the CM secretariat.
‘Main Hoon Na’, announced Shivraj Singh Chouhan in a video message circulated on Twitter, in an attempt to assure the farmers that he will purchase their onions at higher prices.
In the short video message, he actually used the catch word twice. Apparently, he wants to give the impression that he can solve all problems. This is indeed the ‘Main Hun Na’ moment of MP politics.
Powers That Be, my column in DB Post of 21 July 2018