Bhopal: On a massive stage, with 5000 people in attendance, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan announced uninterrupted power supply today in state capital Bhopal. The trappings and scale of the function, and a well-timed tweet by Mr Chouhan right after, were reminiscent of the Narendra Modi style of doing things.
Mr Chouhan, the BJP's other poster boy CM, is widely seen as the Gujarat Chief Minister's competition at home on "good governance." He tweeted today after the grand function - "Let's all pledge to make Madhya Pradesh number One state in the country."
The MP chief minister is not known to be in the same league as Mr Modi on marketing savvy, but today's event was preceded by full-page ads in newspapers. And the timing was sweet, not only because assembly elections in the state are six months away.
Just two days ago, Mr Chouhan was overlooked for inclusion in the BJP's parliamentary board, a select group of 12 top leaders that makes the most crucial decisions in the party. Mr Modi found place in the panel as the only chief minister.
Mr Chouhan's candidacy was reportedly backed by senior leaders like LK Advani and Sushma Swaraj, but he was eventually included in no panel in the party's big overhaul. The Gujarat CM is not only in the party's parliamentary board now, but also on its election panel for 2014.
BJP president Rajnath Singh explained today, "Shivraj Chouhan has performed well but there was only one vacancy, for Narendra Modi." But the reshuffle on the weekend also saw many Modi aides get key assignments. And the new team includes leaders like Uma Bharti and Prabhat Jha, known rivals of Mr Chouhan in Madhya Pradesh.
Mr Modi's fans in the BJP want the party to declare him its candidate for PM in next year's elections. But the BJP has refused to commit as yet on what role he shall play. The Gujarat Chief Minister's obvious political ambition has reportedly caused considerable disquiet among other top leaders of the party, who have pointed to Mr Chouhan to say that Mr Modi is not the only BJP chief minister with development and effective administration to his credit.
At a party national executive meeting held recently in Delhi, Mr Advani had showered praise on Mr Chouhan. The meet was expected to showcase Mr Modi, newly triumphant in the Gujarat Assembly elections. In another speech, Mr Advani called Mr Chouhan "an ideal Chief Minister and an ideal administrator," and pointedly said that despite being successful he is humble. The oblique reference to Mr Modi was not lost.
The BJP hopes to retain Madhya Pradesh a third time running on the dint of Mr Chouhan's popularity in November this year. If he wins, Mr Chouhan will be a third term CM. Mr Modi recently won his fourth term as CM in Gujarat.