In an apparent jibe at Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi and his growing national stature, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani Saturday lavished praise on Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan at a party meeting here.
Advani said that Chouhan had successfully transformed his "bimaru" (sick) state into a healthy one, which was a far tougher job than what Modi faced in Gujarat.
Addressing the BJP's booth-level coordinators in Gwalior, the octogenarian leader even compared Chouhan to former National Democratic Alliance (NDA) prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
"I often tell Nadrendra Modi that Gujarat was already an economically healthy state when he became chief minister. He has only made Gujarat a better state. But Madhya Pradesh was a 'bimaru' state, and it underwent a total developmental change and evolved as a healthy state, for which I give full credit to Shivraj Singh Chouhan," said Advani.
"I am from Gujarat. But I want Madhya Pradesh to get its position in the world," Advani said.
While Modi entered the BJP parliamentary board - the highest decision making body of the party - Chouhan did not make it, despite backing from Advani.
Speaking on former prime ministers and their positive and negative points, Advani said: "Vajpayee did not have any shortcomings. One of his best qualities was his humility. I see the same in Shivraj Singh Chouhan. Vajpayee implemented several developmental schemes including road network, but he always remained very humble and far away from arrogance," he said.
"Similarly, Chouhan has also formulated a large number of development and welfare schemes like the Ladli Laxmi scheme and Mukya Mantri Teerth Darshan Yojna, and implemented them successfully. Despite all his major work, I have found Chouhan very humble, like Vajpayee," Advani said.
He said the party wants both Chouhan and Modi "to play a major role in securing India an important place in the world".
"Both BJP-ruled Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh are now reckoned as models of development even outside India," Advani said.
Modi has a sizeable number of supporters who want his name to be proposed as the party's prime ministerial candidate for 2014.