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Development, not temple, is my agenda: Chouhan

But unlike Modi, who has again switched on his aggressive style to cheers from the BJP galleries, Madhya Pradesh CM Shivraj Singh Chouhan has meticulously worked out his campaign plan, reports Shekhar Iyer.

delhi Updated: Feb 12, 2009 23:29 IST
Shekhar Iyer
Shekhar Iyer
Hindustan Times

Until he gave the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) that spectacular assembly poll victory — for a second time — in Madhya Pradesh, Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan was a “slumdog”, not in the league of leaders like Narendra Modi, his Gujarat counterpart.

But since that victory, his delivery skills have caught the eye of central leaders, particularly the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate L.K. Advani, and Chouhan is in focus again — for the Lok Sabha polls.

In fact, at the recent Nagpur conclave, Advani made it a point to praise Chouhan’s ability and “humility” to connect with the people and deliver on governance while also lauding Modi for his ‘Gujarat model’.

Advani has entrusted Chouhan with a new job — to win a maximum number of seats for the BJP. Modi, too, has the same task, but his area of responsibility includes the entire western region, besides Gujarat.

Madhya Pradesh has 29 Lok Sabha seats against Gujarat’s 26. In 2004, the BJP won 23 seats in MP and only 16 in Gujarat. If the assembly polls are any indication, Modi could ensure 18 to 20 seats and Chouhan 23.

But unlike Modi, who has again switched on his aggressive style to cheers from the BJP galleries, Chouhan has meticulously worked out his campaign plan.

Development, and not Hindutva, will be his main plank — the same formula that gave him a bumper crop in the assembly polls. Even if he has to talk on the BJP’s pet subject of security, he would rather talk of his government’s achievements — eliminating dacoits and Naxalites and busting the Students’ Islamic Movement of India (SIMI) network — than spew venom against Pakistan.

Chouhan told Hindustan Times on Thursday, “Besides projecting Advani’s leadership, I will focus again on development, good governance and security. The Ram temple (at Ayodhya) is not an election issue in MP”, which is in the grip of water and power crises.

Chouhan said, “I have started doing voluntary physical work every week to show that if a chief minister can sweat it out for development, so should others.”

He said he was already holding lok kalyan melas (people’s welfare fairs) at district headquarters where public grievances are sorted out. “I am also focusing on ideas given by seven action groups — consisting of the country’s best experts — to handle key issues.” These issues include roads, electricity, water, law and order as well as ways to usher in remunerative agriculture, women’s empowerment, health and education, investment and development of cities.

Chouhan ruled out the possibility of his wife Sadhana contesting the Lok Sabha polls. “Both of us have decided that she will not fight elections.”

He said he had left the selection of candidates to the central BJP leadership. “My job is to win seats,” he said.

First Published: Feb 12, 2009 23:26 IST