Modi-watchers suspect that, given his penchant to break established norms, the PM could end Red Fort’s monopoly as the venue for the I-Day addresses. This is nothing new for Modi though: as Gujarat chief minister, he had famously shifted the I-Day venue from Gandhinagar to obscure towns even as the opposition cried foul, accusing him of indulging in publicity stunts, says a report in Times of India.
“In 2003, he unfurled the tricolour from Patan, capital of old Gujarat, and followed it up with a succession of I-Day venues from small towns: Anand, Himmatnagar, Sabarkantha, Dahod, Mehsana, Palanpur, Rajpipla, Rajkot, Nadiad, Junagadh and Bhuj. An official recalled in 2003, when Modi had first decided to unfurl the tricolour at Patan, Congress dismissed it an ‘extravaganza’, and got Vithal Pandya, father of slain BJP leader and minister Haren Pandya, to hoist the flag at Gandhinagar, the capital of Gujarat,” says the report.
“When he told us that he wanted a change in venue, we expected him to go for a business centre like Surat or a cultural capital like Vadodara, but he chose Patan, the capital of the Solanki dynasty, the last Hindu kings who ruled over much of present-day Gujarat. The programmes over the two days had a distinct Hindu flavour to it with residents being asked to light more than 1,000 lamps on the I-Day evening. Modi also revived ‘tolling of bells’ and ‘singing of patriotic songs at dawn’ in Patan which continued later too,” an official who had worked with Modi told the newspaper.
“Modi declared ‘Swantrata Diwas’ as a Mahotsav (mega festival), leading to a six-day programme every year, including police parades, children’s festivals, cultural programmes, display of military arms and artillery. Besides, Modi started the practice of launching projects worth Rs 5 crore in a chosen district every I-Day. These celebrations were held in Anand, Himmatnagar and Dahod in subsequent years. In 2007, just before the state assembly elections, he took the celebrations to his home turf Mehsana for the first time,” says the report.