Indian PM's birthplace bus tour draws fans

Indian PM's birthplace bus tour draws fans
The former 'tea stall' of the father of Indian prime minister, Narendra Modi, where Modi assisted his father in his spare time at the railway station of Vadnagar town.

AHMEDABAD, India - Fans of Narendra Modi have been given a boost, with plans to expand bus tours of the town where the future Indian prime minister grew up and worked at his father's tea stall.

The weekly tour has become so popular since starting early this year that daily excursions are being planned to the tiny town in the western state of Gujarat where the charismatic premier was born, said the travel agency running them.

"We have been taking about 56 tourists every week since February. Now with the increase in demand we plan to make it a daily tour" of about 45 passengers, Manish Sharma, from Akshar Travels, told AFP.

Sharma said the tour, costing 600 rupees ($9) per person, starts from the state's largest city Ahmedabad before travelling the 120 kilometres to Vadnagar.

Apart from visiting Modi's former schools, the tour includes a visit to Sharmistha Lake "where Modi's childhood began with an adventure of catching a baby crocodile", according to an itinerary on Gujarat tourism's website.

Modi, who stormed to power last May with a landslide election win, has long had legions of fans including fellow Hindu nationalists and those impressed by his economic success as chief minister of Gujarat.

A suit with Modi's name stitched into the pinstripe and worn by the premier when he met Barack Obama was sold at auction in February.

But fans overstepped the mark the same month by building a temple in his honour in Gujarat, including a large statue of the leader. Modi said he was appalled by the move.

The tour includes a visit to the town's railway station where Modi as a child famously helped his father sell tea, along with the house where he was born.

Visitors can also chat to some of Modi's former school friends and others who knew him and his family.

"We are also beginning a marketing campaign for this package in the US, Europe, China and Middle Eastern countries for the next tourist season (starting) in December," Sharma said.

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