Rajnath says Modi most popular, Chouhan denies competition
Days after L K Advani appeared to have preferred Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan over Narendra Modi in the race for BJP's prime ministerial candidate, party president Rajnath Singh today said the Gujarat heavyweight was the "most popular leader" in the country.
True to his reputation for humility, Chouhan himself described Modi as his "senior and elder brother" and sought to rule himself out of race for being projected as BJP's prime ministerial face.
"I think Advani's statement has been wrongly interpreted. There cannot be two opinions that Narendra Modi is the most popular leader in the country," Singh told a press conference in Hyderabad.
He was asked whether Advani had pitched Chouhan against Modi by lavishing praise on the Madhya Pradesh chief minister.
He, however, clarified that who would be the BJP's candidate for prime ministership would be decided by the party's Parliamentary Board.
Chouhan, whose humility Advani had said was akin to that of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, sought to downplay the controversy, saying the BJP veteran had not praised any individual but the style of functioning of party chief ministers.
"I want to say with all humility that Advani first praised Narendra Modi for his excellent work. He then praised Raman Singh (Chhattisgarh Chief Minister). He also extolled Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar. Advani also praised the work done by BJP's Madhya Pradesh government led by me.
"So he did not praise any individual. He praised all (BJP) chief ministers, our style of functioning. This is what he meant to say...this is the gist of what he said," Chouhan told reporters in Bhopal.
Chouhan also appeared to rule himself out of contention for becoming BJP's prime ministerial choice, saying,"Narendra Modi is my senior, an elder brother. Raman Singh is also senior to me. Leave alone being number one, or number two, I am not even at number three."
Advani had extolled Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister as "humble" at a party function on Saturday.
"Vajpayee implemented several developmental schemes including road network but he always remained very humble and far away from arrogance.
"Similarly, Chouhan has also formulated a large number of development and welfare schemes like Ladli Laxmi scheme and Mukya Mantri Teerth Darshan Yojna and implemented them successfully. Despite so many achievements, Chouhan never had any ego. I found Chouhan very humble, like Vajpayee," Advani had told BJP's booth-level coordinators in Gwalior.
He said Gujarat was already a "healthy" state when Modi assumed charge and he transformed it into the "best" state but what Chouhan did was to successfully turn around a BIMARU (laggard) state into a developed one.