Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Narendra Modi's in-house rival for the 'good governance' tag

Shivraj Singh Chouhan, Narendra Modi's in-house rival for the 'good governance' tag
Bhopal:  Shivraj Singh Chouhan, the BJP's other poster Chief Minister, features in full-page ads in today's newspapers promising uninterrupted power supply in Bhopal, the capital of his state Madhya Pradesh. Mr Chouhan is widely seen as Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi's competition at home on good governance.

The ads, and a ceremony to inaugurate 24x7 power supply in Bhopal district, come only two days after Mr Chouhan was overlooked for inclusion in the BJP's parliamentary board, a select group of 12 top leaders that make the most crucial decisions in the party. Mr Modi found place in the panel as the only chief minister, seen as a sign of his growing clout in party affairs.

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 at the weekend. The Gujarat Chief Minister has found place not only on the party's parliamentary board, but also on its election panel for 2014.

Party president Rajnath Singh's new team, hand-picked to steer the party in the Lok Sabha elections next year, has on it many close aides of Mr Modi in key assignments. It also includes leaders like Uma Bharti and Prabhat Jha, known rivals of Mr Chouhan in Madhya Pradesh.

Mr Modi's ardent fans, a fast expanding group within the BJP, have been demanding that he be declared the party's candidate for PM for 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.

Assembly elections are due in Madhya Pradesh in November this year and the BJP hopes to retain the state a third running on the dint of Mr Chouhan's popularity. If he wins, Mr Chauhan will be a third term CM and efforts like today's event signal a hotting up of the electoral race. The Congress has dismissed Mr Chouhan's claim on power as a political stunt.

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