By 9 a.m. on Monday morning, prospective BJP Ministers received text messages inviting them to Gujarat Bhawan for tea with Prime Minister Narendra Modi. It was finally the D-Day, when Ministry hopefuls would confirm their place in history.
The list included Arun Jaitley, Rajnath Singh, Sushma Swaraj, Uma Bharati, Ravi Shankar Prasad, Nitin Gadkari, Gopinath Munde, Dharmendra Pradhan, Harsh Vardhan, Venkaiah Naidu, Piyush Goel, Nirmala Sitharaman, Najma Heptullah, Sadanand Gowda, Santosh Gangwar, Anant Kumar, Thawarchand Gehlot and V.K. Singh. In addition to senior BJP MPs and leaders, Lok Janshakti Party chief Ramvilas Paswan and his son Chirag Paswan, Rashtriya Lok Samta Party chief Upendra Kushwaha and Shiv Sena MP Anant Geete were also invited.
Kautilya Marg Mother Dairy booth 239 manager Pawan Kumar had also prepared for the day by stocking up every refrigerated space in his booth with buttermilk, ice creams and other dairy products. Mr. Kumar has seen a jump in sales ever since Gujarat Bhawan has become the Capital’s power centre following the BJP’s victory.
Soon, the press and the security forces made a beeline for the stall. The media was kept behind a barricade, 50 m south of Gujarat Bhawan. The barricade was placed right at the milk booth giving Kumar a captive clientele, who were duty bound to stay in the punishing heat. Kumar skipped his lunch break to attend to customers.
“On regular summer days, I have sales of Rs.50,000 including milk. Today, I made Rs.70,000 so far. The only trouble is that I have run out of change,” he told The Hindu at 4 p.m. The Bhawan was guarded by both the Delhi and the Gujarat Police in addition to troops from the Border Security Force and the Central Reserve Police Force.
BJP workers from many States hung around the Bhawan, carrying banners and waving flags. Although all of them had come to meet Mr. Modi, they had to be content seeing the Bhawan. Most BJP workers this paper spoke to were staying at houses of their local MP and had the Akshardham Temple and Red Fort on their itinerary.
Among the party faithful was Avdhesh Pratap Singh Rathor, who unsuccessfully fought the 2008 polls from Niwari in Madhya Pradesh as a candidate of Uma Bharti’s Bharatiya Janshakti Party, which later reunited with the BJP. Rathor is famous for being a look alike of Mr. Modi.
“I am an ordinary worker who wants to work for a great leader like Mr. Modi. Yes, I look like him but I am a follower of Uma Bhartiji. I have not had any important work to do for the party in MP, but I hope Modiji will give us a chance to work for the country,” he said.
Paan sellers were, however, made to shut down at 5 p.m. before Mr. Modi left for Rashtrapati Bhavan. At the State house of Uttarakhand, a Congress-ruled State where the BJP swept all five seats, police personnel stood in formation in ceremonial dress.
“It’s a special day so that’s why we dressed up. It’s not for the media,” said the officer. For other cops, the day at Gujarat Bhawan was spent taking cover from the sun under Plumeria trees that line the road. Before anyone knew it, Mr. Modi sped away from the North Gate after 5-45 p.m. offering just a two-second clip for video cameras.