Personnel of the Sikh regiment carrying the elderly on their backs in Gaurikund. Arijit Sen/HT Photo
Personnel of the Sikh regiment carrying the elderly on their backs in Gaurikund, Uttarakhand. Arijit Sen/HT Photo
Karaj Singh of the Sikh Regiment helps people who were trapped in Gaurikund, Uttarakhand. Arijit Sen/HT Photo
People who were stuck in Gaurikund make their way through the remains of a road in Uttarakhand. Arijit Sen/HT Photo
A long queue of cars to be cleaned following heavy rains near Mayali in Uttarakhand. Arijit Sen/HT Photo
Victims being carried to the Phata helipad during a rescue operation in Uttarakhand. Arijit Sen/HT Photo
A victim thanks Army personnel after being rescued in Uttarakhand. Arijit Sen/HT Photo
Victims being air lifted from Gaurikund in Uttarakhand. Arijit Sen/HT Photo
Victims waiting for helicopter to get air lifted from Gaurikund in Uttarakhand. Arijit Sen/HT Photo
Victims waiting for a helicopter to get air lifted from Gaurikund in Uttarakhand. Arijit Sen/HT Photo
Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi may be at the receiving end of jibes from political rivals over his "Rambo act" in relief efforts in flood-ravaged Uttarakhand. But, aides say, he was forced to act more by the deluge of appeals to his office from relatives of hundreds of Gujaratis who were stranded than by any impulse, as his critics say, to hog the limelight.
Also, they said the "Rambo" tag was a media creation than any spin doctoring by his officials or social network fans.
However, it’s also true that in any crisis, Modi has found people in his state besiege him or his office for quick help -- whether it involved those stranded in war-torn Libya in February 2011, Gujaratis held hostages in Lakshadweep in October 2011, or diamond merchants languishing in a jail in South China's Shenzhen city.
After which, the Gujarat CM was seen swing into action, moving to free them.
"That is his image and people frantically call up for help," said an official. "This time, those stranded in Kedarnath shrine and other places which are high on any Gujarati religious schedule called up.
After the Somnath temple, it is the most sacred place for Gujaratis. Also, Gujaratis make up for at least 25 per cent of at least three lakhs who vist the four dhams every summer. As his nature, Modi does not sit back and wait for things to happen at an official level. He always follows it up in person to prevent any foul-up."
Modi got the first spate of distress phone calls and alerts on his social media on June 17 late night.
By next day, Modi instructed help to be organised in Dehra Dun and his government's control rooms came up in Ahmedabad, Delhi and Dehra Dun where a batch of Gujarat officers sent. Local BJP unit was also sounded to help people.
Aides said on June 19 as the number of distress appeals shot up, he spoke to his counterpart, Vijay Bahuguna. He also spoke to railway minister Malikarjun Kharge to organize special trains from Dehra Dun.
Modi followed up his telephonic talk with a letter to the Uttarakhand CM. expressing his "appreciation" for the Bahuguna government's efforts to rescue people.
Modi informed him that "a large number of people of Gujarat needed help. My officials are in touch with officers of Uttarkhand." He announced Rs 2 crore aid to the state, which was later supplemented by gift of another Rs 3 crore, for relief operations.
As distress calls mounted alarmingly for the next three days, Modi informed the Uttarkhand CM that he was coming to Dehra Dun to oversee Gujarat government arrangements for the rescued people.
After an aerial trip to see the extent of devastation, Modi offered his government's experience and help in the restoration of the centuries-old Kedarnath shrine, which was later, of course, turned down by Bahuguna.
As details of stranded Gujaratis began to pour his office back home, Modi offered to organise some private helicopters for Uttarakhand's rescue efforts, which were politely turned down by Bahuguna.
Meantime, his aides got five aircraft and a number of buses and vans to be ready to evacuate people who are rescued by the Uttarakhand administration and to return to Ahmedabad.
"No Gujarat chopper was involved in any rescue bid," said the aide. "Our efforts were only to take our people back to Gujarat after they brought from the upper reaches.
At no stage, we made any claim before the media that we saved 15,000 people. Our vehicles also brought back many people from other states too...Where's the question of spin doctoring?" he asked.