Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday invoked the “path of duty” as he went ahead with his scheduled events in poll-bound Gujarat despite a “pain-filled heart” caused by the bridge collapse that killed over 140, mostly women and children.
Modi was in Gujarat when the cables of a suspension bridge in Morbi city snapped on Sunday evening, sending hundreds of people plunging into the Machchhu river below.
The Gujarat Chief Minister’s Office on Monday announced that Modi would visit Morbi on Tuesday afternoon.
“The Prime Minister will visit Morbi tomorrow, Nov 1, afternoon,” a tweet by the office of Gujarat chief minister Bhupendra Patel said.
As the bodies were being fished out of the river on Monday, Modi attended an event in Ekta Nagar to mark the birth anniversary of Sardar Patel and talked about his “pain-filled heart” and the call of duty.
Later in the afternoon, he attended another event in Banaskatha to inaugurate development projects and address a gathering.
At both the events, the Prime Minister appeared to choke with emotions as he referred to the pain he felt over the bridge collapse.
“I’m in Ekta Nagar but my mind is with the victims of Morbi. Rarely in my life have I experienced such pain,” he said.
“On the one hand there is a pain-filled heart and on the other hand there is the path of duty,” he added, stressing that “karm and kartavya” had got him to the event but his “karuna se bhara mann” was with the families of the Morbi victims.
Modi has been travelling to Gujarat frequently in recent times to inaugurate and lay stones for development projects and address crowds, widely seen as a preparation for the upcoming Assembly polls.
On Sunday, he laid the foundation for an aircraft-manufacturing project in Vadodara, seen as a big gift to his home state ahead of the polls.
After the Sardar Patel birth anniversary event on Monday morning, Modi was in the tribal-dominated region of Banaskatha to inaugurate an irrigation project.
He started his address by raising slogans of “Bharat Mata ki jai” and hailed Sardar Patel with slogans of “Sardar Patel amar rahe” before sharing his grief over the bridge tragedy.
Addressing the crowd in Gujarati, Modi said his “pain-filled heart” was in a dilemma whether to come for the event or not. He said he strengthened his heart and came to the event after taking into account the importance of the development project for parched Banaskatha.
“The tragedy in Morbi is distressing and painful,” Modi said, appearing to choke with emotion. “Following the tragedy, I was wondering if today’s event should be held, but strengthened by your love for me, service and duty, I have come among you,” Modi said.
At the Sardar Patel birth anniversary event too, Modi was his usual self after condoling the deaths.
Patel’s birthday is celebrated as Ekta Divas (Unity Day) and Modi stressed the need for remaining united during the tragedy.
He said that “enemies” were trying to break India’s unity. “Those forces are still active and they want to make the people of the country fight in the name of caste, region and language,” he said.
In Delhi, home minister Amit Shah, who also hails from Gujarat, addressed the students of Sardar Patel Vidyalaya where he said the country wouldn’t have faced the problems it was battling today had Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel been made India’s first Prime Minister.