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Chouhan wears skull cap to woo Muslims

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By Suchandana Gupta

Bhopal: Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan stunned many in the BJP when he sported a traditional skull cap while greeting Muslims after Eid-ul-Fitr prayers here on Friday. Chouhan's gesture stood out particularly because his Gujarat counterpart and the BJP's probable prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi had refused to wear such a cap when offered by a Muslim cleric during a 'sadbhavna' fast in September 2011.

Three months before the assembly polls in Madhya Pradesh, Chouhan in skull cap was appreciated resoundingly by the Muslims for his gesture. Bollywood actor Raza Murad, who stood by Chouhan's side, told reporters, "There are certain things that Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi should learn from Shivraj Singh Chouhan, and not show aversion to skull caps.'' Murad said wearing a skull cap did not affect anybody's religion.

Chouhan did not respond to Murad's barb at Modi. Earlier this week as well, he was seen in a skull cap hosting an Iftar dinner at his official residence at Shyamla Hills.

Last week, the Chouhan government was embroiled in a controversy when the education department ordered the inclusion parts of Bhagwad Gita in madrassa curriculum. But after the Muslim community protested, the government promptly withdrew the order.

On June 1, senior BJP leader LK Advani had praised Chouhan as a better performing CM than Modi during a workers meet in Gwalior. Ever since, Chouhan has been pushing the envelope on his anti-Modi positions, in the process trying to project himself as a popular BJP leader with secular credentials.

Chouhan is travelling through 229 of 230 assembly seats on a Jan Ashirwad Yatra seeking people's mandate for a third term. Thousands have been thronging the roads and highways as Chouhan has gone addressing the crowds from atop the rath.

In Thandla, Muslims showered rose petals and marigolds from the terrace of a mosque. When puzzled journalists asked him about the minority community's floral greetings to him, Chouhan said, "Muslims will come to my meetings because I haven't permitted communal riots in MP and my policies have ensured everyone similar benefits.''

(Courtesy: The Times of India)
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