The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Saturday appointed Vishnu Dutt Sharma as the Madhya Pradesh state president. Sharma replaced Jabalpur Lok Sabha MP Rakesh Singh, who had been serving as the state BJP president from April 2018.
Presently, Vishnu Dutt Sharma is the Lok Sabha MP from Khajuraho and is general secretary in the MP unit of BJP in Rakesh Singh’s team. The appointment of a new state BJP president in Madhya Pradesh had been pending ever since Rakesh Singh’s term came to an end.
Speculations were rife in the state BJP that Rakesh Singh, an MP from Jabalpur, might get another term. He had last month organised a grand pro-Citizenship (Amendment) Act rally in his constituency, which was attended by Amit Shah.
The BJP leadership, however, picked Sharma for the post, a move that has come as a surprise to many.
Sharma, who is popularly known as VD, is a staunch follower of the RSS and began his political career with the Akhil Bhartiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP). He is credited for strengthening the ABVP, the students’ wing of the RSS, in Madhya Pradesh in the 1990s.
Sharma was trying for a ticket from the Govindpura constituency in Bhopal before the 2018 Madhya Pradesh Assembly elections. He did not get the desired ticket and was given the charge of the Rewa constituency instead.
BJP did exceedingly well in the Baghelkhand region where constituencies of the Rewa division are located and it was largely seen as a result of VD Sharma’s efforts.
In fact, the Rewa division was the only region in MP where BJP did better than the Congress. Had Congress averaged the same number of seats in the Rewa division, as it did in the other regions of the state, it would have formed the government with a comfortable majority.
In the Lok Sabha elections, VD Sharma was seen as a probable contender for the Bhopal constituency. However, the ticket was finally given to Pragya Thakur but Sharma, nonetheless, managed to secure a party nomination from Khajuraho seat which lies in the Bundelkhand region.
Even though he was an outsider in the region, Sharma managed to win by a thundering majority from Khajuraho by securing about 5 lakh votes.
What does VD Sharma’s appointment signify for other BJP leaders?
VD Sharma’s appointment clearly points to an influence of the Sangh in organisational decisions. Sharma is also popular with party workers.
The central unit of the BJP feels that in Sharma, the party has a leader who commands the loyalty of common workers and will have a street fighter to oppose the local Congress government — something that the party found owing to being in government for 15 years in the state.
Caste-wise, Sharma is a Brahmin and the BJP appears to be Brahmin-heavy with the leader of opposition Gopal Bhargava also being a Brahmin. Political watchers suggest that with VD Sharma’s appointment, Gopal Bhargava may now be replaced with someone else.
Sharma is also not perceived to be close to former CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan, perhaps the tallest BJP leader in the state, but someone who has clearly fallen foul of the central BJP leadership.
Local BJP leaders in MP are also maintaining a studied distance from Chouhan, given that they are aware of the central leadership’s aversion to him.
In Sharma’s appointment, there is a clear anti-Shivraj message. The Shivraj group is, however, taking solace in the fact that Rakesh Singh, the outgoing BJP state president did not secure a second term. Shivraj Singh Chouhan had been opposed to Singh being given another term.
In days to come, with VD Sharma’s appointment, one can expect more agitations and aggressive street style politics unfolding in the state.
How will Sharma’s appointment impact the appointment of the next Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) president which has been due for some time now too?
The Congress, in its true style, has been delaying the appointment of the next PCC president to replace Chief Minister Kamal Nath who is holding the post presently.
Former Union minister Jyotiraditya Scindia is a contender for the post as are a number of other state leaders close to CM Kamal Nath.
The appointment of VD Sharma as PCC chief will dent the chances of any Brahmin leaders who were harbouring hopes of being appointed PCC president. It will brighten the chances of an aggressive, youthful leader for the post.