MUMBAI: A Mumbai steel manufacturer is finding himself much in demand during India’s election season thanks to his uncanny resemblance to prime ministerial frontrunner Narendra Modi. Sporting a greywhite beard, glasses and the politician’s trademark shirt and waistcoat, Vikas Mahante is now a regular sight on the campaign trail with right-wing candidates in the financial capital who are keen to cash in on Modi’s popularity.
Mahante, 52, keeps a portfolio at home of his various Modi outfits, scours YouTube for videos of the political leader, and is often stopped on the street for photographs- yet he does not charge for his services. “I am not doing this for any party. I am only doing it for Mr Modi, because I want to make my contribution in his efforts to become PM,” he said. “I have seen volunteers and people start emanating energy after meeting me, it is like they have just met the real Modi.” As well as campaigning with Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Mahante has come in useful for the regional hardline Shiv Sena party.
A long-time ally of the BJP’s, the Shiv Sena appears to have been shunned by the real Modi in the run up to the election-so Mahante’s appearances at their rallies have provided a useful boost. The lookalike says campaigning in the tropical sun is hard work, but “the energy of the volunteers, the sheer excitement of the crowds, makes you forget about tiredness”. When Modi, chief minister of Gujarat state, got wind of Mahante’s likeness, he made an appointment with the businessman last year. “After introductions were made, he looked at me head to toe and asked me: ‘So will you campaign?’ My routine now is the answer to his question,” Mahante said.— AFP