Salman Khan called Narendra Modi “a good man”, even “a great man”, and acknowledged his development work in Gujarat while giving him his “best wishes”.
The Bollywood superstar did not give the BJPleader his own vote, saying let the “best man” get the prime minister’s job. Yet, as image management exercises go, his compliments for Modi marked a major triumph for the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate.
For someone who has been criticized for the Gujarat riots of 2002 — which claimed at least 1,250 lives, most of them Muslims — on his watch as the state’s chief minister, getting Salman to visit him, share lunch and be praised by him in public was clearly seen as a publicity coup for the BJP’s PM candidate.
Not surprisingly, Modi used social media with abandon — four tweets, including two photographs in three hours — to emphasize his interaction with the Dabangg filmstar, who enjoys fanatical following, especially among the Muslim underclass.
Salman, who had come to the city to promote his forthcoming movie ‘Jai Ho’, flew kites at Uttarayan, the international kite festival. So did Modi. Watching the two together was reason enough for many to wonder whether the actor would endorse Modi for prime ministership.
In his lifetime, the Bollywood star has faced many tricky situations: his alleged involvement in a black buck killing case (2006) and his alleged role in a hit-and-run case (2002) being two such examples. But to be in Modi’s company in public glare was a different kind of delicate situation for him, forcing the usually unflappable star to take a circuitous route to make his point at the media interaction.
He said everyone should vote for the best candidate in every constituency. “The best man for Bharat, for India should be prime minister,” he said. To Modi, the best he offered was, “Jo unki taqdeer mein ho hoga, woh Modi saab ko milega (Modi saab will get whatever he is destined to).”
As for his own vote, he pretty much hinted that in Bandra, where he lives, the candidates for him were Baba Siddique (MLA) and Priya Dutt (MP), both belonging to the Congress. His general pitch was: You vote for your best candidate (Modi) and let me vote for mine.
Salman also revealed that his father, Bollywood writer Salim Khan, often spoke with Modi. Towards the end of the meeting with the media, he said of the BJP leader, “Aaj pehli baar mulakat hui hai and I hope yeh mulakatein badhti rahe. We get along. He is a great man. I wish him all the very best in real life.”
At 12.58 pm, Modi tweeted, “Enjoying Uttarayan in Ahmedabad. Salman Khan will join for lunch.” About an hour later, he posted a picture of them together. Shortly after, he said, “Having undhiyu for lunch with Salman Khan. Undhiyu is a Gujarati delicacy and is a must-have during Uttarayan!” Two hours later, he tweeted again, “It was good to see Salman Khan trying his hand at flying kites! He flew the kites well.” Clearly, he wanted everyone to know who was visiting him on Tuesday.
The odd couple stayed with each other for almost the whole day and visited several places to celebrate the festival. Zafar Sareshwala, a leading Ahmedabad-based businessman, who coordinated their meeting, said Modi and Salim Khan were old friends. “Modiji considers Salimji as guru in many things,” he said.