Ahmedabad, Dec. 14: His last day in office could not curb the populist in him.
On the eve of counting of votes, Gujarat’s caretaker chief minister Narendra Modi was living up to the image he has been trying to cultivate — a man dedicated to the people of the state.
Television journalists and reporters representing foreign news agencies got an unexpected call from Modi’s bungalow this morning, inviting them to a function where he would hand over to the state exchequer gifts he had received during his tenure.
It was otherwise a lean day, with politicians relaxing after a hectic campaign, waiting for tomorrow when the fate of the two main parties will become clear.
Modi refused to hazard a guess. “I would rather wait till tomorrow,” he said, although he claimed that his party, the BJP, will form the government. “I’m relaxing today, reading newspapers and watching TV,” he said after handing over “priceless gifts” he had received as chief minister. The money raised through the auction of these items will be utilised for the “cause of girls’ education”.
Since his swearing-in as chief minister last year, Modi has donated 1,100 gift items so far. The first time, he deposited 134 items, which raised Rs 17 lakh through an auction held on the premises of the Gujarat Chamber of Commerce and Industry on November 20 last year.
In the second instalment, he deposited 182 items, which fetched Rs 8.61 lakh on December 25.
The third time, Modi handed over 340 items on July 17 this year. The items included 99 kg of silver in which he was weighed during his Gujarat Gaurav Yatra at Vijapur. Auctions to the third and fourth deposits will be held later by the state government.
The Congress criticised what it called a “publicity stunt”. A senior Congress leader said his party had started this practice and that Madhavsinh Solanki, the first Congress chief minister who handed over all the gifts he had received to the exchequer, never made a show of it.
Yamel Vyas, the chief of the BJP’s intellectual cell, countered. “Modi’s gesture is not to seek any publicity — he has got enough. He genuinely wants to contribute to the noble cause of girls’ education,” Vyas said. “He is single, no family to look after. So he is completely dedicated to the people of Gujarat.”