“I wanted to see what is it about Narendra Modi that helped him win in spite of all the negative publicity.”
Seated in the last row of chairs laid out on Shivaji Park for enthusiasts wanting to listen to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi, 24-year-old Anil Gokhale (name changed on request) hung on to every word coming from the leader.
The denim-clad software engineer spent Sunday evening on the dusty maidan listening to Modi. Gokhale was among the thousands at Shivaji Park who had come to witness Modi’s felicitation at the hands of the Bharatiya Janata Party’s national general secretary Gopinath Munde.
Their wait ended past 7 pm when Modi made a grand entry on a lion-faced chariot, crowded by half a dozen other BJP leaders.
It was fireworks, cheers and slogans as Modi waved to the crowds. The crowds, though substantial, did leave some empty spaces at the back of the grounds. The speeches during the rally had something for everyone.
Issues ranged from the Juhu molestation case to the Dalit massacre at Khairlanji. The government was criticised for everything — from lack of law and order to lack of electricity. The “common man” included everyone, from minorities to Dalits.
Modi and other BJP leaders — Gopinath Munde, Vinod Tawde and Nitin Gadkari — spoke elaborately of development but remembered to throw in anti-terrorism talk for good measure. “The Prevention of Terrorist Activities Act, 2002, was the only law capable of dealing with terrorists but the government scrapped it to appease minorities,” said Modi.
Modi also took digs at Maharastra’s Chief Minister Vilasrao Deshmukh. “He made many promises on behalf of the Congress in Gujarat. You should ask him to implement some of those here,” he said.
Throughout his speech, Modi made sure to involve the crowd which, until his arrival, had been making do with the now-famous Modi masks.
“He is not a stereotypical leader,” said Himanshu Barve, a 32-year-old doctor who attended the rally. “He takes the people with him when he speaks. That is what makes him unique.”
Dr A.G. Kulkarni (75) said Modi’s speech was the best he had heard in a long time. “India could do with some more like Modi. Moditva is all over India,” he said.