The curious case of TOI's report on Modi's 'dear friend'

It was a parable on Modi's days in Gujarat University, but what was it doing in the newspaper?

ByNL Team
The curious case of TOI's report on Modi's 'dear friend'

The inside pages of today's Times of India carried a sweet little story about Narendra Modi's former classmate remembering how his "dear friend", the now prime minister, used to help him out during their days studying MA in political science at Gujarat University in 1983.

Needing money for his hostel fees, Okram Singhajit Singh, a resident of Manipur, recalled how he went to Modi's home where he was "warmly received" by Modi's mother. Modi lent him Rs 800, overruling his protestations that Rs 400 was enough, and refused to allow him to pay it back. "It was just a help from a friend," the story explained.

One wonders why this story was in print at all, this parable from Modi's youth. The full report on the Times of India website adds more details: That Singh joined the BJP as a "simple member" in 2016 and is also a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh in Manipur, where he is presently "helping the government implement its development programme at his village".

In the longer report online, Singh offered up other crucial details from the now prime minister's college years: that he "wore khadi clothes most of the time", "carried a bag", and was "kind-hearted and a quick learner".

And this isn't even the first time that Singh has told this story. In 2016, he gave an even more detailed account of his friendship with Modi to a Manipuri website, replete with the same points about Modi's khadi clothes, financial loan, kind heart, and quickness at learning. Except that the 2016 story added that Singh had been an RSS member at the time too.

Imphal Times published a similar story about Singh in 2016 as well and, oddly enough, once again in January 2020.

Of course, one shouldn't forget that Singh's 2016 anecdotes came at a time when the prime minister was facing scrutiny over the curious case of his degree certificate from Gujarat University. The Times of India story had Singh reassuring readers that Modi "scored more marks" than him, even though he was "not a regular in class owing to his hectic RSS programmes".

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