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Lion purrs, eye on new terrain
- In victory, mellow Modi utters ‘namrata and vivek

Ahmedabad, Dec. 23: In his hour of triumph, Narendra Modi spoke about restraint and winning hearts, keenly aware he needs an image makeover now that the door to Delhi may have opened for him.

The man who had fanned Gujarat asmita (pride) to retain power changed the slogan today to “namrata and vivek (politeness and restraint)” as he addressed supporters from a dais on the street outside the BJP headquarters here.

The crowd had been simmering, cracking rustic jokes at the Congress and talking casually of lynching the media as it waited for hours on the road and rooftops to hear its “saavaj (lion in Kathiawari Gujarati)”.

But its expectations of a verbal volley from the man whom poll codes of conduct couldn’t deter were disappointed. Post-victory, Modi seemed to have little use for asmita.

“When Krishna and the Pandavs fought together at Kurukshetra, they nursed the enemies’ injured horses and elephants at night,” Modi said. Once the battle is over, it’s time to win hearts, he added.

Such “statesmanlike” behaviour could serve Modi well if he makes the leap to the national stage. The crowd egged him on to “conquer Delhi, be the next Prime Minister”.

Former junior defence minister Harin Pathak said the same thing at the next rally in Maninagar, Modi’s constituency, as the chief minister sat poker-faced on the dais.

Modi had spent the morning and afternoon watching TV virtually alone in the ministers’ residential complex. All the other ministers were at their constituencies and his two immediate neighbours had lost their seats.

Journalists stood on the road outside from 5.30am but instead of sound bites got a media statement thanking the voters.

The star of the election emerged only at 3pm amid heavy security, silently waved at the reporters and gestured them to join him at the party office. By then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had called to congratulate him.

At the BJP headquarters, where supporters beat drums and flew party banners by tying them to kites, Modi kept the mood light. He spoke of how he had gone underground as a turbaned Sikh during the Emergency.

What should people do when “truth is distorted”, he asked. He answered the question himself: they should be restrained and silent and try to win hearts. The audience digested the advice in silence.

But Modi couldn’t resist himself when it came to Sonia Gandhi, who got a lighter rap than him from the Election Commission yesterday over what he sees as standard campaign give-and-take.

“One decision for the son of Gujarat and son of Hindustan and another for the foreigner daughter,” the chief minister thundered.

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