Indicating a worrisome spread of COVID-19 pandemic in the top political echelons of Madhya Pradesh, another member of the CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan cabinet—water resources minister Tulsiram Silawat—tested positive on Tuesday evening. Along with the chief minister Chouhan himself, this is the third member of the cabinet to have tested positive for COVID-19 infection within five days.
Earlier on July 23, cooperatives minister Arvind Bhadoria had tested positive followed by Chouhan on July 25. Both Chouhan and Bhadoria are admitted to private Chirayu Hospital in Bhopal, and both are healthy. Silawat and his wife have home quarantined themselves on the advice of doctors, the minister announced on social media.
Till now, about seven MLAs including the CM and a minister and Silawat, who is an ex-MLA, have tested positive for COVID-19 in Madhya Pradesh. Only one of these MLAs is from the Congress while others belong to the ruling BJP.
COVID-19 cases have shown a sharp rise in Madhya Pradesh during the month of July. Till July 28, as many as 15,624 positive cases have been reported in the state, which is significantly higher than the 13,593 cases reported from March 20 till June 20. The cases in July till now make up for 53 per cent of the total 29,217 cases reported till now in the state.
Also 258 deaths have been reported in the month of July, taking the toll in the state to 830 as on July 28. A ten-day complete lockdown was declared in Bhopal from July 25 and, earlier, a seven-day lockdown was imposed in Gwalior too. Minister Silawat, a Jyotiraditya Scindia loyalist, and his wife, both tested positive in the report that came in on Tuesday night. The minister himself took to Twitter to declare his positive status and urged his associates to undergo the tests too. He said he got himself tested along with his wife despite being asymptomatic, following the appeal by CM Chouhan.
Immediately afterwards, Scindia too tweeted a message wishing good health to Silawat.
Meanwhile, it was reported that the organising general secretary of the state BJP Suhas Bhagat and Bhopal divisional organising secretary Ashutosh Tiwari had tested positive too and were admitted to Chirayu Hospital late on Tuesday evening. Bhagat’s first report had come in negative but a re-test was done for him as well as state president V.D. Sharma. While Sharma tested negative second time too, Bhagat tested positive, sources said.
Bhagat and Sharma had accompanied CM Chouhan and minister Arvind Bhadoria on the state plane for the funeral of deceased governor of Madhya Pradesh Lalji Tandon on June 21. Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Rajya Sabha member Jyotiraditya Scindia, MP home minister Narottam Mishra, Silawat and other leaders took to Twitter to wish for quick recovery of Bhagat, though without mentioning COVID-19. The leaders have been avoiding mention of COVID-19 affliction while wishing quick recovery and good health for their afflicted associates.
The affliction of the senior functionaries and leaders of the BJP has dealt a blow to the by-poll preparedness of the ruling party. Immediately after the rules were relaxed under ‘Unlock 2.0’ in the month of July, the BJP had gone into a serious by-poll mode. Several virtual rallies were organized and a spate of meetings of senior functionaries with the elected leaders were held in Bhopal as well as other parts of the state.
Programmes were also held in Bhopal in presence of CM and other senior party functionaries to induct three ex-MLAs of Congress who resigned and joined BJP during the course of past fortnight. BJP ministers and MLAs have also been participating in various public functions in different parts of state, often without caring for social distancing norms and other preventive measures like wearing a mask. CM Chouhan also visited Gwalior, Indore and Ujjain over the past month, for review meetings as well as other public functions.
The CM also convened a cabinet meeting on July 22, in which all his cabinet colleagues were present. Minister Bhadoria tested positive the very next day thus forcing the CM and other cabinet members to undergo tests.