Party without differences

MP politicsChief Minister Chouhan with state BJP chief Tomar (right). Express archive

Politival rivals and critics may have perverted its tagline of "the party with a difference" to "the party with differences" but BJP leaders in Madhya Pradesh have not felt the need to counter it or come up with a new slogan because they reckon the jibe targets their national counterparts.

And they have reason to feel confident about that.

Since the BJP wrested power from the Congress a decade ago, its leaders in the state have rarely expressed dissent in public, barring when Uma Bharti challenged the leadership while storming out of a legislature party meeting in November 2005. She was thrown out and spent five years in the cold.

And unlike the obvious differences and groupism in the national leadership, BJP leaders in Madhya Pradesh have largely projected a united face over the last few years. In stark contrast, the state Congress held unity rallies ahead of the 2008 elections and again in the run-up to the 2013 elections.

In fact, the state government and the ruling party have gelled so well and coalesced into one, responding to each other's requirements and feeding off each other, that the opposition has called it illegal.

The best example of this, perhaps, was a series of Hitgrahi Sammelan or gathering of beneficiaries held a couple of years ago, when those benefiting from popular government programmes such as Mukhyamantri Kanyadaan, Ladli Laxmi and Janani Suraksha were enrolled as party members. The official explanation was that party membership was voluntary on payment of Rs 5. And many joined thinking they would be deprived of benefits if they did not pay.

The BJP has ensured that it faces the election under Shivraj Singh Chouhan as chief minister and Narendra Singh Tomar as state president, a combination that worked well in 2008. Both are not aggressive and maintain a relatively low profile.

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