Puri: Looking to woo the people of Odisha, BJP National Election Campaign Committee chairman Narendra Modi on Tuesday invoked blessings of Lord Jagannath here while lauding the contribution of Odia people for the economic development of Gujarat.
"I respect the contribution of the Odia people who shed sweat for the development of Gujarat," Modi told reporters in Odia language after performing pujas at Gundicha Temple and Sri Mandir here.
Chanting `Jai Jagannath` and `Bande Utkal Janani`, the BJP heavyweight clad in a white kurta with a red scarf on his shoulder, said he came here from Somnath Dham to seek blessings of Lord Jagannath for the overall development of the nation.
Modi, however, did not utter a word about any political party, including Congress. Stating that he was lucky to have darshan of Lord Jagannath, Modi pointed out there were many similarities between Odisha and Gujarat.
"While you are located in the coast, Gujarat too is a coastal state. You have a Sun temple at Konark where the first sun ray touches India, while Gujarat is the place to get the last ray during sunset," he said.
Modi`s chaste Odia speech inspired party men present in front of the 12th century shrine who repeated the words uttered by the Gujarat Chief Minister.
`Jai Jagannath and Bande Utkal Jajani` rent the air in Puri wherever Modi visited.
After having darshan of the trinity at Gundicha Temple and Maa Bimala and Maha Laxmi at Sri Mandir, Modi went to Puri`s titular head King Dibyasingha Deb`s palace where both had discussion for about 10 minutes. Neither Modi nor the king elaborated on the discussion.
Later, Modi met Puri Shankaracharya Nischalananda Saraswati and had a discussion for about 30 minutes.
The Shankaracharya advised Modi to sincerely work for the overall development of the country as "no political party is seriously working for the country`s development", he said.
Modi, who arrived here amidst tight security, first went to Gundicha Temple where Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Devi Subhadra were being worshipped during the Rath Jatra festival. He spent about 20 minutes inside the temple and offered puja to the Trinity. The Gujarat Chief Minister`s family priest Raghunath Gochhikar and other Daitapati priests accompanied the BJP strongman.
Modi`s visit appeared to have rekindled hopes of the party`s revival among BJP leaders and workers in the state. They feel his visit would play a significant role in rejuvenating the party organisation in Odisha.
If the rousing welcome accorded to Modi, who is often seen as the saffron party`s "Hindutva mascot" at Puri, Bhubaneswar airport and elsewhere is any indicator, then the Modi charisma seems to be working in Odisha too.
During his 60 km drive from Bhubaneswar to Puri, Modi was greeted by cheering crowds on both sides of the roads.
On his way to Puri, Modi stopped for five minutes at Sakhigopal and paid tribute at the statues of `Pancha Sakha` (five legendary figures of Odisha) in an apparent bid to appeal to the sentiments of Odias who respect the five heroes.
Though BJP leaders claim that Modi`s visit was totally non-political, his meeting with two prominent Hindu leaders -- Gajapati King and the Shankaracharya -- raised speculation about his move to stir religious sentiments of people and unite Hindu forces before the next elections.
A senior BJP leader said Modi`s flawless Odia when he addressed the media outside the Sri Jagannath Temple should "send a clear signal" to Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik, who apparently still struggles with the language though he has been ruling the state since 2000.
Tight security arrangements were made for Modi`s visit. With the Z plus category security, additional forces of CISF and Odisha police have been deployed.