It was billed as Narendra Modi's big 'homecoming', the first time he would return to the state after taking over as Prime a Minister, a day before hosting the Chinese President Xi Jinping. The PM arrived, and rituals were followed, but reverses in the by polls had quite perceptibly dampened the mood.
And it was perhaps to show the big picture and motivate his workers that Modi began his speech, during a public felicitation programme, by speaking of the massive strides BJP has made. Modi said, "BJP's speciality is its organisational strength and hardwork and sincerity of workers. Could anyone imagine that a party with two MPs in 1984, a party whose top leaders had lost, which the ruling party mocked, would come to power with a full majority?"
He also sought to personally reach out to workers by telling them that he may be PM but for them he was the old Narendrabhai. Modi spoke in Gujarati at the two events he addressed on Tuesday.
There was no mention of the by polls, except when the six MLA winners and one MP winner were honored on the stage. But the setback - BJP lost three assembly seats it had previously held - hung as a shadow. As an Ahmebadad MLA told HT during the event, "We had won one of these seats by 38,000 votes in 2012. Such a quick reversal is something for us to introspect about."
To remind workers about the scale of victory, Modi stayed with the theme of the government enjoying a full majority and its benefits through his speech. "A majority is not only about what you can do or not do in parliament, about how easily you can form the government or take decisions. There is an impact of decisions taken by a government with full majority." The Chinese president, he said, is coming to Gujarat not because of Modi. "He is coming because of the decision of 125 crore Indians to give a full majority. Hiuen Tsang had come 1400 years ago and it is for the first time that a Chinese leader of such stature is coming to Gujarat." Incidentally, Wednesday, when Xi arrives, also happens to be the PM's birthday and he is scheduled to visit his mother to seek her blessings, but has urged well wishers not to celebrate it.
Modi underlined the importance of the federal structure, and spoke of empowering all states irrespective of who was in power there. At an earlier event soon after being welcomed at the airport, he had claimed that his experience in Gujarat as CM had helped him transition in Delhi. "One reason why Chinese president is coming here is to show world leaders states and cities outside Delhi and showcase India's diversity."
To quell any possible criticism of the Gujarat government in light of the poll reverses, Modi underlined his support for chief minister Anandiben Patel. "I had said earlier that Modi's success is not when he will be here but if despite him not being here, Gujarat is moving ahead. I am coming after four months. And Gujarat is moving ahead at the same pace for people's welfare and development. And it is because of all you, of the team, of the organisation." Modi also spoke of being a 'small man', who cared about ordinary citizens.
The PM, Amit Shah - who too was felicitated, and CM Patel also spoke of the government's achievements so far, with Shah claiming that Modi's visit to Jammu and Kashmir after the floors had shown him to be a 'sensitive' leader.
While Tuesday was dominated by politics and party celebrations, and a dinner hosted by the CM for the PM, the state government continued its other preparations for President Xi's visit on Wednesday. The city continues to decked up, and sources said that all arrangements were complete now.