Just hours before Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Vadodara for his public address and road show across the city on Sunday, 76-year-old Chand Mohammad Dhobi breathed his last at the SSG hospital, across the road from Navlakhi ground where Modi addressed the rally. Dhobi, a resident of Godhra, was Modi’s laundry man for a decade in 1970s, when Modi lived in Godhra as an RSS pracharak.
Dhobi, who had suffered a cardiac arrest on Saturday and was rushed to Vadodara for treatment, had risen to fame in Godhra town in 2008, when as Chief Minister Modi had extended a special invitation to him to a public meeting. Modi had handed over a cheque of Rs 5 lakhs to Chand, who refused to take the money, instead, seeking a small plot of land to which Modi had instantly agreed and asked the district administration to process the same.
However, till his end, Dhobi was unable to secure the plot as initially the administration delayed the process and when it did clear the land for allotment in 2015, Chand was unable to pay the necessary amount decided as per the Jantri value of the land. An acquaintance of Chand, who oversaw his funeral procession in Godhra on Sunday, said, “In his last days, he used to sell fruits like custard apple to make ends meet. He lived in his dilapidated shanty until the end as he was unable to collect the amount that needed to be paid to take possession of the land.”
Locals say Chand ran Yaadgar laundry in the Kajiwad area of Godhra in the 1970s, when Modi often visited the town and stayed in a small house near Chand’s shop. Locals say Modi often spent time talking to Chand during his days as a pracharak, while the latter put his clothes in order. Modi had also extended a special invitation to Chand during his symbolic one-day fast in Godhra in 2012 as part of the Sadbhavna rally.
When contacted Collector of Panchmahals SK Langa said, “Over the years, many officials handling Chand’s case have changed and therefore, we need to ascertain through our files why a delay occurred in processing his case or why was he unable to seek possession of the land.”