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A TALE OF ENDURING CAMARADERIE! - Abhimanyu Singh, Grandson of Bhairon Singh Shekhawat

Recently, nation observed the 100th birth anniversary of Bhairon Singh Shekhawat reflecting on the relationship that Narendra Modi shared with him, characterized by mutual respect and affection for each other. Modi received personal guidance from Shekhawat since he was the Sangathan mantri of BJP in Gujarat. During the Ekta Yatra in 1991, he had the privilege of spending time with Shekhawat, which aided him in planning and executing the Yatra.

In Gujarat, Modi tackled the water scarcity crisis through the Sardar Sarovar project and an extensive Narmada canal network. The Narmada main canal stretches 458 km up to the Rajasthan border. Modi ensured that it continues for another 74 km into Rajasthan, reaching Barmer. At this point, Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, the then Vice President of India, reached out to Modi enquiring convenient time to meet. Modi instantly replied to meet him anytime soon. Despite protocol, the Vice President went to meet Modi to appreciate for the noble gesture by Gujarat government of providing water to Rajasthan. The Vice President himself tied a Safa (Rajasthani turban) to CM Modi as a token of his affection and appreciation.

Of many anecdotes between them, one was shared by PM Modi himself – “I remember an incident when I was travelling with Bhairon Singh ji for some party work. We were at the airport. Coincidentally, former PM Chandrashekhar ji reached there, and he spotted Bhairon Singh ji. Upon seeing Chandrashekhar ji approaching, Bhairon Singh ji promptly ushered me to the other side and discreetly placed some packets of pan supari (chewing tobacco) in my pocket. I was initially puzzled by this. When Chandrashekhar ji arrived, his first act was to check Bhairon Singh ji’s pocket. It was then that I realized Shekhawat ji had transferred the pan supari to my pocket. Bhairon Singh Shekhawat ji had a habit of chewing pan supari, which Chandrashekhar ji strongly disliked. Fearing that Chandrashekhar ji might discard it in the dustbin, he swiftly placed it in my pocket.”

Modi had authored a poetry book titled ‘Aankh Aa Dhanya Chhe’ and invited Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat for the book launch at Mumbai, in 2007. During the event, he spoke about his initial disbelief and stated, “When Narendra Modi asked me for the release of the book, I thought he was joking. I could not believe that he can write poetry too. I am sorry, Modi ji, I did not expect that you had such a soft side. Today I realize that his personality is a perfect harmony between his soft and tough natures.” Shekhawat also added, “I wish I write a book and you (Modi) launch my book,” hinting to the larger role Modi was meant for in the future.

“It was in December 2007 when Narendra Modi ji had won his Assembly elections in Gujarat. Bhairon Singh ji spoke to Modi ji on phone and I heard him saying that these things can be decided later but first you accept my wishes,” recalls Abhimanyu Singh, grandson of Shekhawat.

The issue at hand was that Narendra Modi wanted Bhairon Singh to attend his swearing-in ceremony while Shekhawat had recently resigned from the post of Vice President of India so he was hesitant about attending a political program. He had informed Modi that he won’t be able to attend. “We were sure that Bhairon Singh ji won’t go because he was steadfast on his convictions and decisions. The next morning, we were surprised to see arrangements were being made for his visit to Gandhinagar to attend the swearingin of Narendra Modi ji. When I asked him about the change of plan, he said, ‘Narendra Bhai called me again and I can’t say no to him,” says Abhimanyu.

In 2005, Vice President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat was guest at the inauguration of the Vibrant Gujarat event. Upon Bhairon Singh’s demise, PM Modi was amongst the persons who reached Jaipur to console the family and remained there until the last rites were performed. Modi named a flyover in Ahmedabad and a Gujarat state govt scheme after Bhairon Singh Shekhawat.

‘MODI JI TAUGHT US TO THINK BIG’ - Hasmukh Adhia, Former Union Finance Secretary

I have learnt a lot from Modi ji. He not only thinks big but also prepares us to do bigger things. An illustration of Narendra Modi’s ‘think big’ approach is the evolution of the Vibrant Gujarat Summit. I was the industries commissioner at that time.

We used to do an annual investment promotion event. In 2002, post the devastating earthquake, under the leadership of Modi, the event was rechristened as Resurgent Gujarat. It was a modest event held in Tagore Hall, which had a seating capacity less than 1,000. A couple of Union ministers and some businessmen participated in it. A small exhibition was organised alongside. Modi came to attend the event. He didn’t say anything to the officials. He silently observed its proceedings, arrangements etc. Later, he called a meeting and remarked that such an event was not befitting Gujarat. He asked everyone to think bigger and organise the event in a grand scale. He named it Vibrant Gujarat and guided us on the ways to expand it in scale and importance.

Hence, Resurgent Gujarat transformed to Vibrant Gujarat. A new format was planned. The first edition itself was at least 20 times bigger than the Resurgent Gujarat event. Thousands of delegates started participating, not just from different parts of the country, but from various nations. It then grew exponentially with each passing year.

Today, Vibrant Gujarat is not just a regional event; it has emerged as a global platform, surpassing even the World Economic Forum in terms of scale and significance. Modi’s ability to inspire and guide others to undertake ambitious endeavours is evident in this journey of Vibrant Gujarat.

SOMEONE WHO CAN GET THINGS DONE - Tony Abbott, Former Australian Prime Minister

I look forward to seeing Narendra Modi’s continued leadership for years to come. The G20 India Summit presented an opportunity for the global community to know him better. I certainly hope that Narendra is there for a long time to come.

Narendra Modi had a great reputation from his time in Gujarat as someone who could get things done. So, I was very keen to make the most of my opportunities to get close to Modi ji.

He came to Australia in 2014 for the G20 meet and he didn’t just come for the event but he also stayed for a state visit where Modi got an absolute rockstar welcome. He got the same overwhelming welcome everywhere he went. As the rest of the world gets to see him more, the more impressed they will be.

I keep saying that if the 19th century was a British century and the 20th century was an American century, there is every reason to hope that the 21st century will be an Indian century. And I often say, if there is to be a leader of the free world in 50 or 100-years’ time, it is at least as likely to be the Indian PM as it is today the US president.


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