Bhopal: Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Saturday chose Khajuraho MP Vishnu Dutt Sharma, who has closely been associated with Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), to head the party in Madhya Pradesh. The development which has taken the party here by surprise comes amid growing concerns in BJP here over pro-Hindu pitch by Chief Minister Kamal Nath.
Sharma (49), a former Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad leader, has replaced Rakesh Singh, said to be trusted lieutenant of Union home minister Amit Shah, in the party post. Singh, who represented Jabapur seat in Lok Sabha, had last month organised a mammoth rally in support of the Citizenship Amendment Act in Jabalpur which was addressed by Shah.
The outgoing state BJP president had often been at loggerhead with senior leaders of the party in MP, particularly former chief minister and BJP national vice-president Shivraj Singh Chouhan over party affairs.
Besides, the party had fared poorly in Mahakoshal region in MP, considered his bastion, in the last Assembly elections, leading BJP to miss the chance of retaining power in the state for fourth time in a row.
Sharma, a postgraduate in agriculture science, has been preferred over other aspirants for the party post such as Chouhan and former minister Narottam Mishra, ‘at the behest of' the RSS leadership,’ a Central party leader told this newspaper requesting not to be quoted.
Sources said Chouhan had even lobbied hard to get one of his loyalists and former ministers Bhupendra Singh and Lal Singh Arya, appointed for the post. By appointing Sharma, a Brahmin, as new president of MP unit of the party, the Central BJP leadership has hinted at possibility of replacing the BJP legislature party leader in the state Gopal Bhargav, who is also a Brahmin, with a leader from other backward class (OBC), a senior BJP leader here indicated.
OBC comprised around 55 percent of total population of MP. The Chief Minister has turned to soft Hindutva by announcing to establish 3,000 cow shelters and develop Ram Gaman Path, the mythical route in north MP believed to have been traversed by Lord Ram, his wife Sita and his sibling Laxman during his self-exile period, apparently to hijack BJP’s Hindutva plank.