• Monday, June 24, 2024

HEADLINE STORY

Not just Modi, even his lookalikes are big hits this Indian poll

Ahmed, a member of India’s Muslim community which is not known for supporting Modi and his BJP, has become a sensation in his locality since he looks like the PM.

Abhinandan Pathak, a lookalike of Indian prime minister Narendra Modi, combs his hair as he campaigns in a national election bid as an independent candidate in Lucknow in India’s Uttar Pradesh state. (Photo by SANJAY KANOJIA/AFP via Getty Images)

By: Shubham Ghosh

ONE might love or hate Narendra Modi but one cannot ignore him for sure.

As a marathon general election continues in India and the prime minister, who is seeking a rare third straight term, is occupying the centre stage, a lot of people in the country having resemblance to him have also basked in reflected glory, irrespective of religious identities.

Take the case of Rashid Ahmed. An electric-rickshaw driver from India’s minority Muslim community which is not known to be supporters of Modi and his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is popular as “Our Modi” in his area in Delhi for his striking resemblance to the leader.

The 60-year-old said while his looks always resembled Modi, they came up for discussion more since the real Modi became the prime minister, Reuters reported. His white hair and beard, trimmed like the original leader’s, along with similar clothing has triggered the talks even more.

Read: Modi’s BJP will be clear winner in India polls, says American political expert

Indian PM Modi lookalike
In this photograph taken on April 10, 2014, Indian businessman Vikas Mahante, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) prime ministerial frontrunner Narendra Modi, speaks on the phone as he prepares for an election campaign event in Mumbai. (Photo by INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP via Getty Images)

Ahmed in fact has become a local celebrity in the neighbourhood with visitors often paying him visits to either talk to him or take pictures with him.

For the children in the area, many of whom he drops at school daily, calls him “Modi Uncle”.

Read: BJP candidate says ‘Lord Jagannath Modii’s devotee’, vows for atonement after severe backlash

Ahmed has even attended rallies of the BJP as a prime ministerial look-alike, exciting those in the crowd who initially thought he was the actual PM.

Such occasions also earn him some money — like Rs 1,000 from each — almost equalling to what he earns from driving electric-rickshaw everyday.

Ahmed, despite belonging to the Muslim community which the Modi government is accused of targeting, sees no fault of the prime minister. He believes it is the lower rungs of the BJP that divide religions, the Reuters report added.

Religious polarisation has been a major issue in the ongoing general elections with the opposition accusing Modi and his party of attacking the Muslims in harsh terms. However, the prime minister has denied the charges and even said in an interview recently that he will not be fit for public life the day he indulges in “Hindu-Muslim politics”.

Ahmed is not the only one who bears resemblance to Modi. There are several Modi lookalikes in India, from a businessman in India’s financial capital Mumbai to a food vendor in the prime minister’s home state of Gujarat, and they have all been part of the BJP’s campaigns.

Sixty-eight-year-old Jagdish Bhatia, who runs a real-estate business in a more affluent area of Delhi and belongs to a spiritual sect which is independent of any religion, also looks like Modi.

He told the news outlet that he does not accept money for attending the ruling party’s rallies, since he considers the task a “social service”, and because he likes Modi’s vision.

“I really liked the way Modi worked, the things he did for the development of the country,” Bhatia told Reuters.

“That is why I like to be of some use to the party.”

Bhatia accentuates his similarity to the PM by altering his clothing style to match, unlike Ahmed who calls his own resemblance to the leader as coincidental.

Modi lookalikes are not new in Indian elections. In the 2014 and 2019 polls, too, there were people seen during campaigns who resembled the PM and some even contested the elections as independents.

In 2019, for instance, Abhinandan Pathak, with an uncanny resemblance to Modi, contested the election as an independent from Lucknow in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh.

In 2014, an Indian businessman named Vikas Mahante, also resembling the PM, assisted the BJP in its campaigns in Mumbai.

(With Reuters inputs)

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