If anyone other than former Prime Minister AB Vajpayee can manage a full house at any BJP conclave, it is Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi who manages to steal attention, outclassing other BJP Chief Ministers.
That too at the fag end of the BJP national council's first day session on Saturday even though the subject is not one with which his image is associated - Hindutva nor Muslims.
Asked by BJP President Rajnath Singh to give an account of his government's achievements, Modi broke into his now familiar "development agenda."
Significantly, Modi was not called upon to speak on the resolution adopted by the BJP council against what it called the "disastrous" policy of appeasement of Muslims by the centre.
As a rule, BJP Chief Ministers were told that they should stick to their government's performance while political issues would be dealt by those who are not in the government.
Modi, who is often showcased by the BJP as the best performing CM, said he wished to challenge the "pseudo-secularists" and "neutral" experts to see for themselves the developmental work done by the BJP governments. "Whether it is Gujarat, Rajasthan, or Chattisgarh, I can claim with authority, the BJP governments have a record in efficiency, transparency and speedy decisions."
Modi claimed that Gujarat had topped the list of states implementing the 20-point programme for poverty amelioration, which was a Congress party's scheme since the days of Indira Gandhi. "Some friends keep discrediting Gujarat." He asked BJP leaders from other states to propagate his state's achievements in their areas to show "nothing is impossible."
Modi, who is likely asked to campaign in UP, accused Finance Minister P Chidambaram of trying to confuse the people by his claim of eight per cent growth every four months when it was Gujarat alone among the states that reported 10 per cent growth consistently.
Launching a severe criticism of the UPA's policies, Modi said, "Gujarat Congress leaders went to Sonia Gandhi recently to seek a ban on the Central Ministers praising Gujarat's achievements."
Reeling out figures, Modi said Gujarat farmers had managed to increase wheat yield by six times on request from the Centre because of shortages in the country. "Yet, the Centre tries to put maximum hurdle on the path of Gujarat. I say why do punish Gujarat? Your quarrel is with Modi. Punish me as you like. Hang me if I am guilty but don't harass the state."
Modi listed, among other things, stoppage of power due to the state from the Central pool because Gujarat had managed to ensure 24 hour supply to rural and urban areas.
Referring to the recurring cases of suicides by farmers in the Congress-ruled Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh, Modi said, "BT cotton is a killer in these states whereas Gujarat farmers have managed to produce enough to be exported to China."
Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje too reeled off statistics to buttress her case that she had worked hard to improve performance in social, educational and power sectors. As her speech was long, Rajnath Singh asked her to wrap up fast.
Chattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh referred to the Saluva Judum movement against the Naxalities, calling it the most "peaceful movement" against the Naxalites who have often targeted tribals for joining hands with the government against them.
Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chaujan, who completed a year in office after a stormy phase of rebellion by Uma Bharti, tried to impress by quoting figures on achievements "on the ground." Bihar Deputy Chief Minister Sushil Modi explained the "turnaround" in his state under the Nitish Kumar Ministry, which is a coalition experiment with the Janata Dal (United).