After 13 years as the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, Shivraj Singh Chouhan is facing his toughest electoral battle.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is heading into its third assembly polls in the state under Chouhan’s leadership.
Observers suggest that while the BJP’s election pitch in other states generally revolves around Prime Minister Narendra Modi, its strategy is anchored around Chouhan in Madhya Pradesh.
Analysts are quick to point out that the election will be decided on one factor — people are voting for or against Chouhan.
The saffron party has been in power in ‘Hindustan's heart’ — as described in its tourism campaign – since 2003. However, the first two years of the government saw Uma Bharti and Babulal Gaur as chief ministers.
Even though Chouhan maintained a low profile earlier in his political carrier, he came to be known as ‘vikas purush' (a person who delivers development) in subsequent years as chief minister.
In the meantime, his government rolled out multiple schemes for women and young girls, and the CM is proud of being called ‘mamaji’.
While only young girls called him 'mamaji' initially, the nickname has since caught on among men and the older generation as well. ‘Mamaji’ has almost substituted his real name.
Chouhan was born to Prem Singh Chouhan and his wife Sundar Bai Chouhan in Sehore district’s Jait village in the Kirar community.
A gold medallist in Master of Arts in Philosophy from Barkatullah University, Bhopal, Chouhan when on to become agriculturist. Chouhan married Sadhna Singh and has two sons, Kartrikey and Kunal.
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In 1975, Chouhan was first elected as President of the Model School Students Union. A year later, he was sent to the Bhopal jail for a brief period over his role in the anti-Emergency protests.
Chouhan was first elected to the state Assembly from Budhni constituency in 1990. A year later, he contested the Lok Sabha elections and was elected a Member of Parliament (MP) from the Vidisha constituency.
In 1991-1992, Chouhan served as the Convener of Akhil Bhartiya Keshariya Vahini and went on to become a Labour and Welfare Committee member from 1993 to 1996.
Rising quickly through the ranks, in 1996, Chouhan was re-elected to Parliament and became member of multiple committees including urban development and human resources development.
In 1997-98, he served as BJP’s General Secretary of Madhya Pradesh.
In 2003, when BJP won a landslide election in the state, Chouhan fought from Raghogarh and lost to then chief minister Digvijaya Singh. Months later, he was re-elected to the Lok Sabha even as the party suffered defeat.
The top office
In November 2005, following instructions from the party, Chief Minister Babulal Gaur stepped aside to make way for Chouhan. He contested a bypoll from Budhni in 2006 to regain his old seat.
Chouhan has been credited with rapid economic development of the state and improvements in the agricultural sector. He has also been credited with strengthening the BJP in Madhya Pradesh.
Chouhan’s images has, however, taken a beating in recent years because of his alleged involvement in the Vyapam scam.Congress has also claimed that Chouhan’s brother-in-law Sanjay Singh Masani was accused in a corruption case. The case dates back to 2008 when the public works department (PWD) allegedly manipulated rules to grant privileged contractor's licence to a company owned by Masani.