‘Modi-like, blue-eyed boy of RSS top leader’: The meteoric rise of Madhya Pradesh CM Mohan Yadav

The three-time BJP MLA has been courting controversies but was little known outside Ujjain.

WrittenBy:Prateek Goyal
A picture of Mohan Yadav.

Nine years ago, Ujjain’s pilgrimage city master plan got a major boost with the allocation of about 820 acres of land for the Simhastha Mela Satellite town. But controversy flared up earlier this year as a major chunk of this agricultural land turned into a private residential colony, with most of it owned by BJP’s Dr Mohan Yadav – now the party’s pick to be the new Madhya Pradesh chief minister. 

The three-time Ujjain South MLA’s role in the land controversy sparked discontent among both Congress and BJP workers. It purportedly also led to a heated exchange between Yadav and BJP MLA Paras Jain. Former chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan played peace-maker, and also restored the land’s original status.

But this is not the only controversy around the new 58-year-old CM of Madhya Pradesh. Since the announcement of his appointment to the top post, several of Yadav’s videos are making rounds on social media, including one showing him hurling abuses at people in a village. 

Despite the controversies, what led to the staunch RSS worker’s rise to Madhya Pradesh’s top post? 

Newslaundry took a look at the political journey of the new CM, who took oath at Bhopal’s Motilal Nehru stadium on Wednesday,    

‘Blue-eyed boy’ of RSS top brass, ‘shock’ for BJP workers 

Yadav is a “blue-eyed boy of Suresh Soni” – one of the top leaders of the RSS in the country, an RSS functionary at Ujjain told Newslaundry, on condition of anonymity. 

The Sangh worker who has been witness to Yadav’s personal and political trajectory, said: “Yadav has been associated with the RSS from a very young age, and is an active member of the Sangh.”

He added, “Suresh Soni and Yadav are so close that in 2013, Soni himself went to Nagpur and Bhopal to ensure that Yadav got a BJP ticket. He won that election, and then again won in 2018, even though the BJP lost.” 

Interestingly, Soni was one of the first RSS leaders to back Narendra Modi’s candidature as the BJP’s face for the prime minister post. The RSS leader was only second to chief Mohan Bhagwat until he was linked to the infamous Vyapam scam in 2014 . Soni is known to have curtailed LK Advani’s influence in the RSS, and for his proximity to Modi. 

After the 15-month-old Congress government was toppled in Madhya Pradesh in 2020, and the BJP formed a new government – Yadav was made the state minister for higher education.    

Yet, the Sangh office bearer said that “nobody expected Mohan Yadav to become the Chief Minister”. “Even the people of Ujjain are surprised. People outside Ujjain don’t even know him. His appointment came as a shock for the RSS and BJP’s state level functionaries too,” he claimed. 

Although another RSS office-bearer said that “Shujalpur MLA Inder Singh Parmar and Mohan Yadav’s names had been making the rounds at the organisation level. But Yadav was chosen over a more decent and humble Inder Singh Parmar.” 

He added that he wouldn’t have voted for Yadav as Chief Minister. “If you ask me about the choice of the Chief Minister, even I wouldn’t have voted for him. MP has been home to the top leaders of BJP, it’s a party stronghold. A weak leadership can weaken the organisation here.”

Prahlad Patel was also in the fray for the top post, claimed the RSS official, adding that a “handful of people from the RSS’s Akhil Bhartiya Karyakari Mandal and the BJP’s top leadership decided on Mohan.” “BJP won because RSS workers were going door-to-door. We didn't want to take any chances ahead of the Lok Sabha polls.”

A Madhya Pradesh BJP office bearer in Bhopal told Newslaundry: “It was very shocking for most of us in the party. There may be hundreds of faults in Shivrajji, but he is humble and down to earth.” 

He pointed out that several “big leaders” like Prahlad Patel and Kailash Vijayvargiya were fielded in the assembly polls. “If the central leadership continues in this fashion, there will come a point that the BJP will not have any capable leaders at the state level. Such an important post should be given to someone decent, someone with political goodwill.” 

He emphasised that a chief minister should be “dignified”. 

An old suitor of controversies 

As Yadav’s name was announced as the Chief Minister elect, a series of his videos began circulating on social media. In one of the videos, the BJP politician could be seen hurling abuses at people in a village, another showed him making controversial remarks against Congress’s Chetan Yadav. 

A BJP office-bearer, who wanted to remain anonymous, told Newslandry: “The CM cannot be seen abusing people in public gatherings. His appointment is definitely going to affect the organisation but considering the 2024 Lok Sabha elections, we will try to negate such differences.”

A state-level RSS functionary described Yadav as “over ambitious,” who functioned “exactly like Modiji”. 

Reflecting on his time with Yadav in Ujjain, he said: “Mohan Yadav wants to remain in the limelight and will not allow others to get credit. He makes sure that credit is only given to him. He has so far ensured that no local leader rises to prominence in Ujjain. He is a seasoned politician, and knows how to get things done.” 

A humble beginning as ABVP activist 

Yadav’s political journey began as an ABVP activist in the early 1980s. He became the secretary of Madhav Science College in 1982, and its president two years later. 

In 1984, he was also appointed the nagar mantri or city minister of Ujjain ABVP. Two years later, he took charge as the student body’s divisional head. In 1988, he became the officer bearer of the ABVP’s Madhya Pradesh unit, and the outfit’s national executive.

In the RSS, Yadav held district level posts from 1991 to 1996. He, subsequently, became the head of an RSS shakha or unit, and then the Ujjain city head of the organisation. In 1997, he became a member of the state level committee of Bhartiya Janta Yuva Morcha, and began his local political journey with his election as president of the Ujjain Development Authority in 2004. He remained at the post till 2010. 

He also remained at the top post of Bhopal’s Paryatan Vikas Nigam from 2011 till 2013 – when he first won the Ujjain South assembly seat. 

The politician’s father Poonam Chand Yadav was a hawker of aloo-vada and pakoras in Ujjain’s Malipura area during Yadav’s school days. But Yadav and two brothers – Nandlal Yadav and Narayan Yadav – all grew up to be well-off businessmen. The family has businesses in the property and agriculture sectors, besides owning stone crushers.   

Yadav owns assets worth Rs 42.04 crore, as per his latest affidavit. 

‘Strategy to appease OBC voters’

Senior journalist and political analyst Rajesh Badal called Yadav’s  appointment as Chief Minister “part of the BJP’s strategy for 2024 general elections”. “It has been done for political gains in the Lok Sabha polls. In Madhya Pradesh, 52 percent of voters are from the OBC community. The BJP cannot ignore OBC voters.” 

Badal said that the BJP has been trying to “pacify” the OBC community – which purportedly had been demanding to replace Chouhan with another OBC face. 

The journalist claimed that there was a high probability that Yadav would be replaced after the Lok Sabha polls. “His future is dependent on the results of the 2024 elections. Yadav now needs to keep controversies at bay.” 

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