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Modi in Mumbai: Between the lines

July 18, 2006
Dekho dekho kaun aaya, Gujarat ka sher aaya (Look who's here: The lion of Gujarat)."

Desh ka neta kaisa ho? Narendra Modi jaisa ho (What should the leaders of the country be like? They should be like Narendra Modi)."

"Narendra Modi aage baddo, hum tumhaare saath hain (Narendra Modi march forth, we are with you)."

The slogans set the tone for Monday evening's anti-terrorism public meeting at the Shanmukhananda Hall in Sion, northcentral Mumbai.

The shouts were accompanied with photographs of the Chhote Sardar -- the Gujarat chief minister, who is called that by Bharatiya Janata Party workers who equate him with one of the fathers of the modern Indian nation, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel -- being held aloft and "Bharat mata ki jai (Hail the Motherland)" reverberating louder with every television camera focus.

The first speaker at the auditorium that can seat roughly 3,000 people was Narendra Banjara, who said he was a patriotic poet.

"When Atalji (Bihari Vajpayee, then Indian prime minister) called (Pakistan President Pervez) Musharraf to Agra, we gave him a 21-gun salute. Pity none of the guns found their target," Banjara said, launching into singsong verse about obliterating Pakistan from the map. That was the most complimentary thing he said about India's nuclear neighbour.

Other highlights of Banjara's performance were calls for bans on missionaries and religious conversions and threats of hoisting the tricolour in Islamabad if Pakistan didn't stop dreaming about Kashmir.

Text: Sumit Bhattacharya | Photographs: Sanjay Sawant
Also read: Complete coverage: The Mumbai blasts

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