Modi’s Shimla visit to sound poll bugle

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By Vishal Gulati
Shimla, May 29 (IANS) Ahead of the Assembly polls later this year, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who often recalls his special bond with Himachal Pradesh, is trying to keep his party’s ‘double engine government’ on the track by recapitulating milestones the state achieved through Centre’s welfare schemes.

Also it’s an opportunity for the Prime Minister to go nostalgic while remembering his early years spent trudging at The Mall and at the iconic Indian Coffee House with his journalist friends.

However, a grand reception awaits Modi’s day-long visit to the ‘Queen of Hills’ — as Shimla was fondly called by the British colonial rulers, on May 31 to sound the poll bugle in the state, a senior BJP leader said on Sunday.

Preparations are underway with Chief Minister Jairam Thakur along with other BJP leaders making all-out efforts to make the visit a memorable event just ahead of the BJP-ruled Shimla Municipal Corporation elections.

This will be Modi’s first visit to Shimla after December 27, 2017, the day his party’s government came to helm in the state. He last addressed the public meeting here on April 27, 2017, after launching the Centre’s subsidised air regional connectivity scheme UDAN, or ‘Ude Desh ka Har Nagarik’.

As per the programme, Modi will be virtually addressing beneficiaries of the Central government’s schemes to mark the eighth anniversary of his government from the historic Ridge — once the promenade for the British colonial rulers when this town was their summer capital.

Later, he will address a public meeting, which is likely to see participation of over 50,000 party workers from there.

The party has mobilised the people to accord warm welcome to the Prime Minister right from the Central Telegraph Office (CTO) to the Ridge as he comes to address the beneficiaries.

The town is being spruced up, some roads have been re-carpeted and electricity poles on the way to the Ridge, which otherwise are in bad shape, painted to give them a majestic look at the eleventh hour.

Marking Modi’s ambitious Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, a cleanliness campaign is underway. “In Shimla, we have taken up cleanliness of public places as the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan is the core programme of the government of India,” BJP leader Avinash Rai Khanna told IANS.

State BJP General Secretary Trilok Jamwal said it is a matter of pride that Modi has chosen Shimla for the rally on the occasion of completion of eight years of the Union government.

“Himachal is the second home of our Prime Minister and he is always excited to visit it. The people of Himachal Pradesh are excited to welcome Modi on his visit,” said Jamwal, who is also political adviser to the Chief Minister.

BJP media in-charge Karan Nanda told IANS owing to a forecast of rainfall by the local Met Office on May 31, a standby venue for the Prime Minister has been set up in Peterhoff, a state-run guest house-cum-hotel that had witnessed the trial of Mahatma Gandhi’s assassin Nathu Ram Godse from 1948-49.

BJP leaders are planning that Modi will take a roadshow in a cavalcade on The Mall from the General Post Office to the rally venue as this is vehicle-free zone.

But why Shimla’s Mall Road, which has several British-era heritage buildings in typical Tudor style — all wooden frames and shingled eaves, is special to Prime Minister Modi.

Old-timers recall that on his previous visits Modi never missed an opportunity to stop at the popular cafe Indian Coffee House on The Mall and to sip a cup of coffee.

In his previous visit in December 2017, as he was on his way to the airstrip, Modi’s cavalcade stopped outside Indian Coffee House and spent more than 10 minutes and enjoyed a cup of coffee as hundreds of BJP workers and others assembled there.

“In Shimla, relished coffee at the Indian Coffee House and reminisced old days. The coffee tastes as good as it did two decades ago, when I would frequent Himachal for party work,” Modi had said in a tweet.

In another tweet, he had thanked the people of Shimla for the warm welcome.

Armed with mobiles, Modi was mobbed by fans as they had tried to take selfies with him outside the Indian Coffee House that was set up in 1943.

Shimla’s famous coffee house has seen many prominent customers — late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and former Deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani.

When he studied in India, former Afghan President Hamid Karzai was a frequent visitor, too.

Modi, during his earlier visit here, recalled that he used to spend hours at the Coffee House with his journalist friends to keep a tab on the state’s political developments.

At one of the public rallies here, Modi had said: “Sitting at the Indian Coffee House along with my journalist friends, I used to get an insight into the state’s political developments.”

Modi had added in a lighter vein that he never paid for the coffee he had. His journalist friends used to foot the bill.

(Vishal Gulati can be contacted at vishal.g@ians.in)

–IANS
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