Virtually sounding the poll bugle in Gujarat, Prime Minister Narendra Modi today led a 11 km roadshow in the city, a Patel community stronghold, where he was accorded a rousing reception.
The roadshow, which began from the airport around 7.25 PM and ended at 9.25 PM at the Circuit House, was a mega outreach by Modi in the election year after the BJP decided to project him as the face of 2017 state Assembly polls, which will be a battle of prestige for the Prime Minister in his home state.
This is Modi's first visit to Surat, the hub of Patidar agitation for reservation in government jobs and educational institutions, after assuming the office in 2014.
A large number of people, waving the tricolour, and chanting "Modi! Modi!" and "Bharat Mata Ki Jai", stood along the road illuminated with lights of different colours as the Prime Minister acknowledged greetings from the cheering crowd by waving to them while standing through the open sunroof of an SUV for almost two hours.
On his arrival at the Surat airport this evening, Modi was greeted by Gujarat Chief Minister Vijay Rupani, Deputy CM Nitin Patel and state BJP chief Jitu Vaghani before he embarked on the roadshow to the Circuit House in Athwalines area, where he will stay overnight.
As Modi came to his home state for the first time after the BJP's resounding victories in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand, the state party unit made every effort to welcome him in grand style in Surat, which has a sizable population of Patels and had witnessed large-scale violence during the quota agitation in 2015.
During the roadshow, the PM was welcomed by various community organisations, youths and women at welcome points set up every 200 meters along the route.
Apart from the 3D laser shows at regular intervals and colourful LED light decoration, an 11 km-long saree with names of various government schemes printed on it was also tied along the route.
Large hoardings welcoming Modi were put up at major spots by local party leaders.
City residents had started thronging the route since afternoon to have a glimpse of Modi and to capture his image on their cell phones.
People belonging to different communities, including Punjabis, Tamils and Marathis, welcomed the PM by turning out in their traditional attire. Shops, hospitals, schools and other residential and commercial premises along the route were illuminated.
A 1008 metre-long welcome banner signed by over one lakh people was also on display.
Modi's convoy was led by 50,000 youths, including women, on 25,000 bikes. A 22-feet tall cutout of Modi was also installed near the airport.
After the roadshow, Modi held a meeting with senior state BJP leaders at the Circuit House.
This is Modi's second visit to his home state this year. He had earlier visited Gandhinagar on March 8 to address women sarpanches from across the country on International Women's Day.
(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)