The BJP claimed today that remarks made by senior leader LK Advani on Saturday have been misinterpreted as a sharp criticism of Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi.
Yesterday, in Madhya Pradesh, Mr Advani lavished praise on the Chief Minister of the state, Shivraj Singh Chouhan, for flipping the state in economic development. Mr Modi, he said, had done well in Gujarat, but Madhya Pradesh was seeped in poverty when Mr Chouhan took over in 2005. Mr Advani seemed to suggest that Mr Chouhan's accomplishment was greater.
"Mr Advani is very senior leader of BJP. He has seen the Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister grow in politics. Shivraj Singhji is like a son to him. So whatever he has said about Shivrajji is a fact. Shivrajji is humble, he's very simple person, he is down to earth and he has done wonders. But I think no motive should be attached to Mr Advani's statement; it is a plain and pure statement given by a senior leader about one of his performing Chief Ministers," said Devendra Fadnavis, Maharashtra BJP President.
But Mr Advani also said Mr Chouhan's "lack of arrogance" has shades of the party's iconic leader Atal Behari Vajpayee.
Those remarks were seen as an open rebuke of Mr Modi, whose critics accuse him of lacking humility. The Chief Minister has also been citing his development of Gujarat as one of his biggest achievements in his campaign to be declared the BJP's presumptive Prime Minister, an issue that is likely to be discussed at the party's meeting of senior leaders in Goa later this month.
Mr Advani is seen as among those within the BJP who are opposed to Mr Modi winning the prime ministerial nomination, not least because other senior leaders believe they are more deserving candidates.
Earlier this year, Mr Advani unsuccessfully lobbied for Mr Chouhan to be inducted into the party's influential parliamentary board. Mr Modi made it instead.
Though his popularity was reaffirmed by an emphatic victory in the Gujarat elections in December, the third in a row, Mr Modi remains a divisive figure on account of the riots in his state in 2002, in which more than 1,000 people were killed, most of them Muslims.