Mumbai, Dec 22: The BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi Sunday said Maharashtra was Gujarat’s “elder brother”, and pointed out that the two states were one – Bombay – before May 1960.
In his speech for the Bharatiya Janata Party’s “Maha-Garjna Rally” that kick-started the party’s election campaign in Maharashtra, Modi also called Mumbai the “maaher” (mother’s house) of Gujarati language.
“After all, we were one (Bombay state) before May 1, 1960,” Modi said.
Modi, who started his speech with a few sentences in Marathi, said Mumbai was closely linked with the people of Gujarat since long.
I love Mumbai, says BJP president Rajnath Singh
Before Modi’s speech, BJP president Rajnath Singh also said a sentence in Marathi – “Mumbai mala faar avadte” (I love Mumbai) – which got a loud applause from the crowd.
Modi, an avatar of Tendulkar: Munde
BJP leader Gopinath Munde had his own version of Modi. He said that after Sachin Tendulkar’s retirement, the country has got another Tendulkar in Modi’s avatar.
While former party chief Nitin Gadkari spoke in Hindi, rally host and Mumbai unit chief Ashish Shelar spoke in a combination of Hindi and Marathi.
Modi in wax
Modi became the second living BJP politician, after former prime minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, to be immortalised in wax by the Celebrity Wax Museum in Lonavala, a hill station around 100 km from Mumbai.
“We recently met Modi and took his measurements for the statue. BJP president Rajnath Singh inaugurated it today in Mumbai before the rally,” museum owner Subhash Kandalloor told IANS.
There are, however, several statues of Congress leaders in the museum, including that of Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi.
The museum has been trying to get appointments with Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi, but has not succeeded so far, he said.
Shivaji, Tilak, Ambedkar remembered
Most BJP speakers did not forget to name historic leaders and saints of Maharashtra, including Chhatrapati Shivaji, Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Babasaheb Ambedkar, Sant Tukaram, Sant Eknath and Sant Ramdas.
While a few speakers remembered late Shiv Sena patriarch Bal Thackeray, some even referred to social crusader Anna Hazare!
‘Manageable’ crowd of around 200,000, say police
The BJP made elaborate arrangements to bring people from across Maharashtra and Gujarat to the rally venue in luxury buses, regular buses, mini-buses, tempos and other small vehicles. Around 400 vehicles were seen parked in the area.
Police said the crowd was a manageable “around 200,000″ at the Bandra-Kurla complex.
Rs.25 crore cheque for Modi!
The Mumbai BJP unit presented a cheque of Rs.25 crore to Modi. The money was collected from across Maharashtra as funds for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections.
10,000 Mumbai tea vendors invited
Around 10,000 tea vendors from Mumbai were invited to the rally, as a tribute to Modi’s humble beginning as a “chaiwala” at the Ahmedabad railway station before joining politics. The organiser, however, said he had no idea how many actually attended.
“We had arranged at least three buses to transport them from different parts of Mumbai. But the buses were stuck in traffic jams. I have no idea how many actually managed to reach and attend the rally,” said BJP national executive member Raj Purohit.
Japan, Australia, Canada officials attend rally
Representatives from various foreign consulates in Mumbai, including Japan, Australia and Canada and other smaller countries attended the rally, according to BJP national executive member Raj Purohit.
There was, however, no one from the US consulate, he said.
Purohit said that contrary to certain reports, the invitation sent to the US consulate was not cancelled. “There was no follow-up from our side and also from their side,” he said.
Incidentally, the US consulate is a stone’s throw away from the rally venue.