There could have been no better gurudakshina for 55-year-old Govind Prajapati than the one he received from Narendra Modi — a BJP ticket from the Palanpur seat. It was Prajapati who first told Modi about the RSS and got him to enrol in it some 42 years ago.
In October, Modi asked his guru and childhood friend to quit his job with the government and join electoral politics.
Prajapati expects to retain Palanpur in Banaskantha district of north Gujarat, one of only two seats the BJP won in the last polls in this drought-affected district bordering Rajasthan. The Congress has five MLAs from here.
The guru is younger than his shishya. Prajapati remembers Modi as a fiery 16-year-old at the Vadnagar high school in neighbouring Mehsana district.
“Narenbhai is three years older than me. I was already a shakha chief at 13, and persuaded Narenbhai to join the Vishnupuri shakha. He was in his last year of school then,” said Prajapati.
They attended training camps together at the RSS headquarters in Nagpur and both became favourites of RSS leaders.
Although Prajapati is younger, Modi always treated him with the respect due to a senior in the organisation. “That’s his badappan (large-heartedness). His love for me didn’t diminish as he rose up the ranks of the RSS and the BJP. Even after becoming chief minister, while I was a mere engineer, he was always deferential.”
Modi’s firebrand oratory was in evidence even in childhood. Prajapati remembered the first time he spoke in public at an RSS function in Vadnagar. “I asked him to deliver a speech. I suggested he draft it and learn it by heart. I remember reading the speech he drafted,” he said. “But when he spoke, Modi did not recite his prepared speech like a tota (parrot). He delivered an impromptu speech that held the audience spellbound.”
Prajapati hoped Modi would deliver similar impassioned speeches when he came to campaign for him in Palanpur.
The guru is no lightweight candidate. “Prajapati has worked in this drought-affected area for the last 20 years building roads and dams,” said Prakash Pathak, a senior local journalist. “Modi handpicked him to head a local division of Narmada and water resources department few years ago."