Battling high anti-incumbency and internal dissent in Madhya Pradesh, the BJP has appointed Union Agriculture Minister Narendra Singh Tomar as the convenor of its State Election Management Committee for the Assembly polls slated to be held later this year.
By appointing the veteran from Gwalior as the chief of its apex poll body for any election-going State, the BJP aims to replicate the performance of the 2008 and 2013 Assembly polls when Mr. Tomar had formed a formidable partership with M.P. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan to deliver successful results.
“As a worker, everyone receives some responsibilities from time to time. We will put all our efforts into making sure that BJP wins with a full majority in the upcoming Assembly elections in the State,” Mr. Tomar said, when he reached Bhopal late on Saturday evening.
Setting the house in order
The development also seems to put to rest all speculation about a change in the leadership in the government, or the State BJP president V.D. Sharma being replaced. Mr. Tomar’s name was among three which have been doing the rounds for more than a fortnight.
Sources said that the lack of coordination between the State government and the party organisation had started looking like a stumbling block; Mr. Tomar, who enjoys a good rapport with the Chief Minister, is expected to set the house in order.
“Instead of a replacement at the top which could have ruffled more feathers, an election-specific role was the right kind of middle ground to help contain internal dissent. Secondly, he hails from the Gwalior-Chambal region which seems on shakier ground, compared to the others,” said a source.
Mr. Tomar, who represents Morena Gwalior in the Lok Sabha, is an influential figure in the Gwalior-Chambal region, from where his Cabinet and party colleague Jyotiraditya Scindia, who crossed over to the BJP in 2020, also hails.
Currently holding the Agriculture and Farmers’ Welfare portfolio, Mr. Tomar has been a part of the Narendra Modi government since 2014. It remains to be seen whether he returns to the State in a full-time capacity or continues to juggle both organisational and Ministerial responsibilities, amidst buzz about a Union Cabinet reshuffle and what looks like a busy calendar packed with electoral activities.
Senior journalist and political commentator Prabhu Pateria observed that Mr. Tomar’s record of delivering acceptance in the divided house of the M.P. BJP and the Central leadership makes him a more acceptable choice to the CM than any other senior leader would have been.
Another source in the BJP said that Mr. Tomar’s appointment as convenor of the committee reflects the Centre taking a direct control over poll-related matters, rather than “relying on any face, as had been the case in 2018”.
“Mr. Tomar shares a good equation with different generations of leaders and different camps and the appointment of an election management is also something that happens in every election. However, this time, he comes as Delhi’s representative as do two other Union Ministers — the newly appointed State election in-charge Bhupendra Yadav and co-in-charge Ashwini Vaishnaw — who will set up offices in Bhopal and closely manage the elections,” the source added.
In that context, the appointment was a throwback to 2003, the source said, when the late Pramod Mahajan and the late Arun Jaitley had closely managed the State’s Assembly polls, to prevent the infighting that cost the party the 1998 election.