A house in Sector 7, Panchkula, invites curious glances and questions for its owners. The reason – for six years, the house was the office-cum-residence of Gujarat Chief Minister and BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. During his stint as the in-charge of BJP units in Chandigarh, Punjab, Haryana and Himachal Pradesh from 1992-98, Modi operated from this house.
The front part of the house was his office. A room behind that his retiring room. Modi resided in the house for around 10 to 15 days a month. For the rest of the time he used to tour the region. Infact, his belongings were removed from here in 2001, almost three years after he left.
The house belongs to the family of the co-treasurer of Chandigarh unit of BJP, Raj Kishore. His father was an associate of Modi during his days in RSS. The family stays in a house nearby. Kishore says that earlier the practice was that a person who was made in-charge of a place was to have an office in the area. “My father suggested that Modi ji could have one of our houses. He stayed here for six years. He used to work and rest at his house and come to our house for meals. It is now that our neighbours come to us asking whether it is the same Narendra Modi who used to reside here,” Kishore said.
With fond memories of the time spent with Modi, Kishore says “his thinking starts from where everyone else’s ends. He thinks ahead and has not changed in all these years. He is still a humble person and a workaholic. But he also used to enjoy his time. We used to go together to restaurants and to watch films. I remembers watching Border with him, along with my family”.
Their family albums are replete with pictures of Modi sharing light moments with the children. A theft also took place in his house during that period.
Kishore’s wife Saroj remembers him as a health-conscious person. “He taught me and my sister-in-law how to cook several dishes, like sabudana khichdi, which he really liked. He was also fond of poha and khandvi. We are really happy that he is the BJP candidate for PM. I hope he wins the election,” she said.
Interestingly, the period between 1996 to 1998 was the only time when the Chandigarh unit of BJP saw success in elections. The party won 15 out of 20 seats of the newly constituted municipal corporation. The BJP also won the Lok Sabha elections held in 1996 and 1998. For the past 15 years, the party has been taking a beating in the elections.
Senior BJP leader Gian Chand Gupta, who is former president of the Chandigarh BJP, says it was the organisational skills of Modi that played a role in the victories. “He would work continuously for hours. When the candidates for the elections of municipal corporation were to be decided, we held a marathon 13-hour meeting from 6 pm to 7 am the next morning. Then the list was finalised. He was a meticulous planner,” Gupta said.