MP is No. 1 state, says Chouhan, party ignores Modi at campaign launch

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Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan Monday claimed Madhya Pradesh is the "number one" state in the country and launched the Jan Ashirwad Yatra from Ujjain's Mahakal temple, his campaign to win another term in Assembly elections due later this year.

The event also saw the ruling BJP keep the yatra's focus only on Chouhan by projecting him as a symbol of good governance.

Also, in a political indication of sorts, hoardings and banners at the launch of the yatra featured the party's national leaders such as Atal Behari Vajpayee, L K Advani, Sushma Swaraj, Rajnath Singh and Anant Kumar, along with some state leaders. But missing noticeably was Chouhan's Gujarat counterpart Narendra Modi, recently named the party's 2014 poll campaign panel chief and touted as its prime ministerial candidate.

The party struggled to cohesively explain Modi's absence and called it the media's way of creating conflict when there was none. It indicated Modi would be "part of the national leadership" and attend the September 25 workers' gathering in Bhopal that would mark the yatra's culmination.

Addressing the first public meeting as part of the rally that will crisscross 224 Assembly constituencies, Chouhan asked workers to think of him and the lotus and not about Assembly tickets.

"I want your vote and money," he said, appealing for donations to the election fund, which he said could be as little as Rs 10.

Accusing the Congress of leveling trivial charges against him, Chouhan said the opposition party had taken to "dirty politics" and was paying heed to the advice from Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi to only target and defame him.

"Even Lord Rama was married,'' he said, hitting at opposition leader Ajay Singh, who had alleged that Chouhan had broken his vow to remain unmarried after meeting Sadhna Singh.

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