|Modi (top), Chouhan
Bhopal, Aug. 21: Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan wants to mend fences with Gujarat counterpart Narendra Modi and is keen to invite him to address a grand gathering in Bhopal on September 25 when Chouhan’s 50-day Jan Ashirwad Yatra concludes.
But Modi is lukewarm to the idea and has cited prior commitments, sources said.
Chouhan has, however, turned to the BJP president to prevail upon Modi and rework his itinerary. Rajnath Singh has promised to help, the sources said.
Seeking a third term in office in the November Assembly elections, Chouhan is keen to line up the top BJP leadership — Rajnath, L.K. Advani, Sushma Swaraj, Arun Jaitley and Modi — in Bhopal on September 25 to show off his clout.
Relations between Chouhan and Modi came under strain after the Gujarat chief minister’s appointment as the BJP’s campaign committee chief for the 2014 Lok Sabha polls. While Chouhan endorsed the party decision in Goa, a section of the BJP believes he fancies himself as a challenger to Modi.
On July 22, when Chouhan kicked off his Jan Ashirwad Yatra, Modi’s photograph was missing from all banners and posters.
A month into the yatra, Modi’s posters have started showing up in some towns, including Neemuch where Chouhan addressed seven public meetings yesterday. Posters bearing Modi’s photograph and the slogan “Yes, we can” that he used in Hyderabad have been spotted on the route of the yatra.
But Madhya Pradesh BJP leaders insist these have been put up by individuals and are not part of Chouhan’s revised strategy.
Soon after the Uttarakhand disaster, when Modi had offered to rebuild the Kedarnath temple, Chouhan had tweeted that no one should indulge in politics at such a time and that everyone should get together to rebuild the hill state.
On August 9, Chouhan wore a Muslim prayer cap for Id and was at Bhopal Idgah to greet worshippers. As he bowed, hugged and greeted the clergy and waved at enthusiastic namazis (those who had offered special Id prayers), actor Raza Murad commented: “Other chief ministers need to learn from the Madhya Pradesh chief minister that wearing a cap does not affect one’s religion.”
Standing next to Murad, Chouhan smiled sheepishly as the actor, a known Samajwadi Party sympathiser, directly named Modi. “It is time that Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi learns some things from Chouhan and does not show his aversion to skull caps,” Murad said.
The Gujarat chief minister had refused to wear a skull cap when he was offered one during his three-day Sadbhavana fast in Ahmedabad in 2011.
In the BJP circles in Bhopal, there is talk that the top RSS-BJP leadership has nudged Chouhan to present a united face as the general elections inch closer and the BJP banks on Modi to increase its Lok Sabha tally. A state minister seen as close to Modi said the “feedback from the ground” had forced the rethink.
“Throughout his Jan Ashirwad Yatra, Chouhan was asked about Modi. BJP workers seem eager to see him in Madhya Pradesh and want Modi to be officially declared the prime ministerial nominee,” the minister said. “Perhaps Chouhan has realised that Modi’s presence in the state will help him fetch some extra votes in the November Assembly polls too.”