ADNAGAR, GUJARAT: Gujarat's Vadnagar today welcomed Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who made his first visit to his hometown since taking over the top job in the country at the head of a colourful roadshow. The Prime Minister was in Vadnagar to inaugurate a multi-speciality hospital and address a rally. The Rs. 400-crore six-storey hospital is the first of its kind in the town, barely 100 km from Ahmedabad.
At a public meeting that followed, PM Modi said, "Coming back to one's hometown and receiving such a warm welcome is special. Whatever I am today is due to the values I have learnt on this soil, among you all in Vadnagar".
On the way to the hospital, the Prime Minister made an impromptu visit to the school he had attended. Leaving behind his security men, he got off the black SUV, and walked to the entrance. As before his entry to Parliament after the election victory in 2014, he knelt at the school's threshold and bowed before entering the grounds.
But the dilapidated tea kiosk at the Vadnagar railway station, where, as a child, he helped his father and uncle sell tea, was not on his itinerary. The spruced-up station had drawn much attention since yesterday. Garlands of marigold had been hung all over and a photography exhibition and a coffee shop lookalike were set up next to the tea kiosk.
PM Modi has been the Chief Minister of Gujarat for 13 years before leading the BJP to a victory in the 2014 national election. And Vadnagar, where he spent his formative years, has been preparing for weeks for this visit. The streets had been lined with hoardings detailing the early life of the Prime Minister.
Ahead of the visit, PM Modi had tweeted:
Later in the day, he addressed a public gathering in Bharuch, a key town in South Gujarat, after he flagged off the Antyodaya Express that will run between Udhna in Gujarat and Jaynagar in Bihar.
"The Antyodaya Express is a commendable initiative by the @RailMinIndia. It connects people and particularly helps those who are from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and work away from their home," the PM tweeted.
This was the Prime Minister's third visit in less than a month to the state where assembly elections are slated for the end of this year. Party chief Amit Shah has set the BJP a target of 150 of the state's 182 seats.
The Prime Minister's two-day visit comes after the GST (Goods and Services Tax) Council carried out major changes in the new tax regime amid criticism from traders and the opposition. The council has reduced the monthly tax payment for small businesses to once every quarter. It has also slashed taxes on 27 items including khakra, a hugely popular Gujarati snack.
"Diwali has come early," the Prime Minister had declared, pointing to the GST changes. The government says the steps are a reflection of its continuous efforts to safeguard citizens' interest.