Advani's statement was misinterpreted, says Rajnath

Hyderabad/New Delhi June 3 (IANS) With Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader L.K. Advani's comments on Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi sparking a controversy, party president Rajnath Singh Monday claimed there had been a misinterpretation.

The BJP sought to play down the controversy created by Advani terming achievements of Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan better than those of Narendra Modi.

"Mr. Advani's statement was misinterpreted," Rajnath Singh told reporters in Hyderabad, when asked about the comparison Advani made between Chouhan and Modi at a party conclave in Gwalior Saturday.

Rajnath Singh also denied reports of a "cold war" in the BJP over the choice of the prime ministerial candidate. "There is no cold war in the BJP. Whatever decision I have to take, I will take after calling a meeting of the central parliamentary board," he said.

In Delhi, party general secretary Rajiv Pratap Rudy said there was "complete misrepresentation" of Advani's remarks.

He said Advani had praised all BJP chief ministers in his speech at Gwalior. "Like a statesman, he carried a positive word for every chief minister," Rudy told reporters.

He said it was natural to shower praise on a leader of the state where an event is being held to boost the morale of party workers.

"You are expected to boost the morale (of party workers). (Advani's remarks) are a complete misrepresentation. It is not fair to attribute this interpretation to him (Advani)," Rudy said.

Rajnath Singh said: "I have said already that if there is a popular leader in the country, it is Narendra Modi."

He did not agree that Advani pitted Chouhan against Modi as a prime ministerial candidate.

Singh claimed that all BJP ruled states had developed in their respective socio-economic conditions.

Comparing Chouhan's development model with that of Modi, Advani had said that the Madhya Pradesh chief minister deserved more credit. He argued that Chouhan, the chief minister of a "BIMARU" state, had brought about considerable progress during his tenure, while Modi only improved an already economically well-off Gujarat.

"Bimaru" has been an acronym for Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh, the four north Indian states which are viewed as laggards in terms of economic development. 'Bimaru' in Hindi also means sickly.

Advani was reported to have said that while Modi's Gujarat was already developed, Chouhan's Madhya Pradesh was backward when they assumed their charges as the chief ministers, and went on to compare Chouhan to former prime minister A.B. Vajpayee.

His statement triggered a debate in the BJP, and was seen as an attempt to scuttle Modi's chances of becoming the prime ministerial candidate of the party.

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