Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, known to have a an amiable persona since he headed the state in 2005, has acquired a new image ahead of elections in the state. The 64-year-old, seen as a “Mama (maternal uncle)” has acquired the monicker “Bulldozer Mama” after bulldozer action against a handful of people in the state.
Asked whether the bulldozer action will continue, Mr Chouhan, in an exclusive interview with NDTV’s Editor-in-Chief Sanjay Pugalia as part of a special programme to launch NDTV’s Madhya Pradesh Chhattisgarh channel, answered in the affirmative.
“I became a Chief Minister at the end of 2005. That time, there were three problems in Madhya Pradesh. The first was the terror of dacoits in Chambal. I had said that either Shivraj will stay on the soil of Madhya Pradesh or the dacoits. The two cannot coexist. I ended all dacoity within a year,” Mr Chouhan said.
“I ended the Maoist activities… I’m as soft as flowers for the people. But if I am soft towards everybody, who will control dacoits and Maoists, mafia, or criminals who assault women? So the bulldozers will keep running. Why is it an issue? They are criminals,” he added.
Madhya Pradesh has seen frequent bulldozer action over the last months, following the trend in BJP-ruled Uttar Pradesh and Haryana.
In July, the house of Pravesh Shukla, accused of urinating on a Dalit man, was razed on the orders of the state government. The accused was arrested after the video, where he was seen urinating on a man, was widely circulated.
Later that month, the houses of two men accused of raping and brutalising a 12-year-old girl in the temple town of Maihar in Satna district were razed.
In June, the razing of 10 houses belonging to people from the Scheduled Castes in Raipura village of Sagar district sparked a huge row. Six of the houses were built under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojana. The Forest Department said only those who were illegally occupying the government forest land were evicted.
After huge criticism from the Congress and Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Aadmi Party, the government suspended the ranger who ordered the demolition and said the houses will be reconstructed.