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Delhi campus stage for Modi

New Delhi, Jan. 30: Narendra Modi will mark his first public appearance outside Gujarat after winning the state elections at one of Delhi’s oldest and most prestigious colleges that also happens to be his friend and party colleague Arun Jaitley’s alma mater.

The Gujarat chief minister will address students of Shri Ram College of Commerce (SRCC) on February 6, following an invitation from the college’s student union.

An organiser said the programme would be “strictly out of bounds” for outsiders and, of course, the media.

Modi reportedly accepted the invite on the condition that his visit should not cause a “law and order” issue or trigger a controversy. He also made discreet enquiries about the college’s standing.

BJP general secretary Vijay Goel, an SRCC alumnus, told him the college was established in 1926 and was the country’s premier institute for higher education in commerce and economics.

An organiser said he would requisition police help as he anticipated protests from the Congress’s student wing NSUI, which has a big following on the north Delhi campus that houses the college.

Asked if Modi would speak on a specific subject, the organiser said no. However, he said Modi’s address would be followed by a “free-wheeling” Q&A session where queries on the 2002 violence and his alleged role in it might pop up. “We are expecting such questions,” the organiser said.

The organiser said they had wanted Modi to visit the college for a “long time”. BJP sources said Rajya Sabha Opposition leader Jaitley may have facilitated the proposed visit but the organiser, when asked, refused to comment.

Shri Ram College of Commerce is to the BJP what St Stephen’s College is to the Congress. Apart from Jaitley and Goel, other BJP leaders and functionaries who studied here include Vijay Jolly and Sudanshu Mittal. Arun Shourie and Chandan Mitra are the BJP’s only Stephanians.

Congress leaders who studied at St Stephen’s include Mani Shankar Aiyar, Kapil Sibal, Sachin Pilot, Shashi Tharoor, R.P.N. Singh and Virbhadra Singh. Rahul Gandhi had also studied there briefly before moving to Harvard University.

The Congress vice-president routinely speaks and interacts with university students all over the country, including Jammu and Kashmir. It seems the BJP, too, has embarked on a plan to enhance Modi’s national acceptability and to capitalise on his purported appeal among youths.

BJP sources bristled at the suggestion that their strategy had been copied from the Congress. “There is no comparison between Rahul and Modi,” a source said.