Evolution of Narendra Modi's self-branding: CM rubs shoulders with Atal on schoolbags

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It may seem like a small beginning but it is significant for the signal it sends: the process of rebranding Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi has begun in earnest.

Less than two weeks after he was named the BJP's 2014 poll campaign panel chief — seen as one step short of projecting him as the party's prime ministerial candidate — students in

104 schools run by the Vadodara Municipal Corporation are being distributed schoolbags and note books with pictures of Modi and former prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee.

About 4,500 such bags and 1.38 lakh note books are to be distributed over three days starting Thursday under the state government's annual school enrollment programme 'Kanya Kelavni' and 'Shala Praveshotsav Abhiyan'.

Last year, the kits distributed during the drive had bags with pictures of Modi and Swami Vivekananda, since the government was celebrating the latter's 150th birth anniversary, or pictures of Modi alone.

Under the programme conducted in rural and urban schools, all bureaucrats, police officers and politicians spread out to attract children to school and get them enrolled. The drive began a decade ago to check the huge dropout rates from government and municipal schools.

One of its attractions is the kit given to students which has a school bag containing a pencil box, a water bottle, a lunch box, crayons, pencils, eraser and sharpener, as well as a pair of shoes and socks.

Besides the bags, students in classes 6 to 8 are also being given notebooks with images of Modi and Vajpayee along with the logo of Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan on its back cover.

Vadodara municipal school board chairman Keyur Rokadia said the idea to replace Swami Vivekananda's picture with that of Vajpayee was to acknowledge the "contribution made by the former prime minister in the sphere of primary education, including the celebrated Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan programme".

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