MP CM Shivraj Chouhan's very own Olympian deeds earn him a Gold
Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and his team of two constables have won the gold medal at the Panna River-Olympics in the 400 m steeplechase. Even though there was no other team in the fray, the judges felt that Chouhan showed exemplary courage in negotiating ankle-deep water. The gold medal was sponsored by the Chief Minister's `Relief' Fund.
The secretary to the CM explained that unlike other politicians who undertake aerial visits to flood-hit areas by chopper, "Mr Chouhan is very down to earth and likes to get as up close and personal as possible''.
"See the personal touch. He gave the life vest to the constable instead of wearing it himself. CM Sir has redefined the concept of an aerial visit,'' the secretary fawned.
The CM's office has scotched reports that it was Shivraj Chouhan's birthday and the policemen were carrying him to give him birthday bumps. ``The other reports of the CM being very high are completely baseless. He was only a bit high. You can see that clearly in the photograph. CM Sir merely said - Thodi si to lift kara de,'' said the CMO spokesperson.
Sources told Tenali Rama that inspired by Chouhan's aerial survey, Arial, a leading detergent brand has submitted a proposal to the CM's office, requesting him to be its brand ambassador. But Chouhan, who is very fond of Surf-ing, smiled away the proposal saying ``daag acche hain''.
Reacting angrily to Shivraj Chouhan travelling business class in flood-hit areas, columnist Shobhaa De has angrily tweeted : ``Panna jao, photo lo, khali haat wapas aao. What a waste of time and opportunity.''
The opposition Congress has said the photograph proves that Madhya Pradesh is a police state. ``The political establishment is sitting in the police lap,'' said a Congress spokesperson. The Maharashtra unit of the Congress has asked if the CM was trying to do a `Shivraj bappa morya' ahead of Ganesh Chaturthi.
Meanwhile, giving a caste angle to the controversy, the Left parties have questioned if the policemen who were made to carry the CM were Dalits.
"The Madhya Pradesh government should come clean. We suspect the two constables are Dalits which is why they were made to do this menial job. Rohith Vemula was an institutional murder, this is an institutional insult,'' fumed Kavita Krishnan, CPI (ML) leader.
Is the CM in troubled waters?
With the photograph going viral, the Prime minister is believed to have called the CM to enquire into what really happened. According to sources, Chouhan said he wanted to follow the PM's advice. ``You said `shoot me, not the Dalits. I also told the photographer, shoot me, not anyone else, but look at the way he has framed me,'' the CM is believed to have told the PM.
Meanwhile, the water snakes in Panna river are very upset that they did not get an opportunity to express their woes to the man they consider God, `Shiv' Raj Chouhan. The leader of the Panna river gang, renowned for performing the popular Naagin dance had reportedly even prepared to perform to the popular Kishore Kumar-Dev Anand number ``Panna ki tamanna hai ki Shivraj mujhe mil jaaye.'' But Chouhan's security apparatus vetoed the idea of an impromptu meeting, asking the snakes to come through the right water channels in Bhopal.
With floods in Panna, Rewa and Satna districts claiming 17 lives in the last three days, the government has decided to order a dozen palanquins for ministers to be carried across rough waters. The government believes the gimmick will promote flood tourism as well. But Congress leaders Digvijay Singh and Jyotiraditya Scindia have protested against the decision, saying they are the original royalty, not Chouhan.
Chouhan did subsequently land on the ground and walked through the slush as well, barefoot. And in the true tradition of Chitrakoot, which incidentally falls in the flood-hit Satna district, his security officer walked behind holding his sneakers.
``We as a party, are committed to Ram Rajya. It was in Chitrakoot where Bharat came and carried Lord Rama's sandals to keep on the Ayodhya throne, while he was in exile. Mandir hum wahi banayenge,'' Shivraj Chouhan said.
When pointed out that making security personnel carry shoes amounts to VVIP racism, leaders said `Bharat' is meant to carry the burden of the political royalty. Only last week, an Odisha minister courted controversy when his security officer was made to strap on his shoes on Independence Day.
Seeing the photograph of a barefoot Chouhan, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi has claimed success for his barb that the BJP runs a ``suit-boot ki sarkar'', pointing out that the party has managed to force the BJP to get rid of the boot.
AAP chief Arvind Kejriwal has meanwhile, renewed his call to grant complete statehood to Delhi. ``Can I ask to be carried like this? No. Never. Because the Delhi police report to the L-G Najeeb Jung and the Union Home ministry. What will I do in an emergency,'' lamented Kejriwal.
On the channel `Time Out Now' on Monday, the Delhi CM is likely to be warned to ``never ever, never ever, ever, EVER, never ever'' even consider such a possibility. The anchor will threaten to open the phone lines if Kejriwal did so.
Tenali Rama is a satirical series by senior journalist T S Sudhir