This Modi doppelgänger imitates the PM, attends BJP rallies, & even acted in a Gujarati movie

0
15
Lalji Devaria waving his hand on the way to Gandhidham | Photo: Praveen Jain | ThePrint
Lalji Devaria waves his hand while on his way to Gandhidham | Photo: Praveen Jain | ThePrint


Text Size:

Gandhidham: Once, when Lalji Devaria was walking on the street, an elderly woman nearly fell at his feet and gave him blessings.

“I was totally taken by surprise. This lady was a Christian, and she said that every day in church she prayed for me to become Prime Minister. She kept calling me ‘Modiji’, and I didn’t have the heart to tell her she was mistaken,” Devaria told ThePrint.

Lalji Devaria helping his wife Bharti to wear the mask before leaving for market | Photo: Praveen Jain | ThePrint
Lalji Devaria helps his wife Bharti wear her mask before leaving for the market | Photo: Praveen Jain | ThePrint

At the time, Devaria had just finished shooting a Gujarati film, Namo Saume Gamo, where he played the role of Narendra Modi as chief minister of Gujarat. He was chosen precisely because of how uncannily similar her looks to Narendra Modi, now the prime minister. There was a twist: Devaria may have looked like Modi, but he was a Congress worker who was with the party for decades. When he wasn’t doing work for the party, he was running a dairy business.

Lalji Devaria looking at his at his pet parrot Mango | Photo: Praveen Jain | ThePrint
Lalji Devaria with his pet parrot Mango | Photo: Praveen Jain | ThePrint
Lalji Devaria plays with his dog Tyson at their house | Photo: Praveen Jain | ThePrint
Lalji Devaria plays with his dog Tyson at their house | Photo: Praveen Jain | ThePrint

“I was with the Congress for 45 years in total, before I left. I shot the film with the party’s knowledge,” he ThePrint. “Looking like Modi gave me some insight into how much people loved him. Once at a hospital, a dying man said his death wish was to meet Modi. Another time when I was walking on the street, a burqa-clad woman stopped me for a selfie and said Modi was her hero.”

Lalji Devaria walks two hours a day at the Ravindra Nath Tagore Garden near his house | Photo: Praveen Jain | ThePrint
Lalji Devaria walks two hours a day at the Ravindra Nath Tagore Garden near his house | Photo: Praveen Jain | ThePrint
Devaria looks at the flowers in the garden | Photo: Praveen Jain | ThePrint
Devaria looks at the flowers in the garden | Photo: Praveen Jain | ThePrint

But as the real Modi gained popularity, especially after 2014, Devaria’s looks got him into trouble.

“I had attended a rally where Rahul Gandhi was campaigning in Ahmedabad in 2017, and some media people took pictures of me. The next day, there were a few headlines that said Modi was at Rahul Gandhi’s rally. I got a call from the (Congress) party and was told to either change my appearance or leave. I felt they were being unfair, so I left,” he said, adding, “I’ve never tried to copy Modi. This has been my style since day one.”

Lalji Devaria on the roads of Kutch | Photo: Praveen Jain | ThePrint
Lalji Devaria on the roads of Kutch | Photo: Praveen Jain | ThePrint
In the white desert of Kutch Lalji Devaria enjoys the swing | Photo: Praveen Jain | ThePrint
In the white desert of Kutch, Lalji Devaria enjoys the swing | Photo: Praveen Jain | ThePrint
Lalji Devaria reading morning newspaper at his residence in Gandhidham | Photo: Praveen Jain | ThePrint
Lalji Devaria reads the morning newspaper at his residence in Gandhidham | Photo: Praveen Jain | ThePrint

Devaria’s wife, Bharati — teasingly referred to as Yashodaben — told ThePrint: “He’s always looked like Modi. It doesn’t bother us. We find it a source of amusement.”

In 2018, Devaria decided to join the BJP and fully embrace the likeness he shared with the prime minister. His primary job since then has been to imitate Modi and please crowds at rallies, which he claims he has done over 700 times now.

Residents of Bhuj taking selfie with Lalji Devaria | Photo: Praveen Jain | ThePrint
Residents of Bhuj take a selfie with Lalji Devaria | Photo: Praveen Jain | ThePrint
Devaria has a lot of affection for animals | Photo: Praveen Jain | ThePrint
Devaria is an animal lover| Photo: Praveen Jain | ThePrint
Lalji Devaria interacting with the Sadhu on the roadside of Gandhidham | Photo: Praveen Jain | ThePrint
Lalji Devaria interacts with a sadhu in Gandhidham | Photo: Praveen Jain | ThePrint

He seems to have no regrets, and the difference in ideology between Congress and BJP doesn’t seem to bother him either.

Sitting in his home in Gandhidham, surrounded by his pets Tyson, the German Shepard, and Mango, the parrot, Devaria said, “Being in the (BJP) party has been useful for me. People treat and look at me with respect.”

Devaria walking on the white desert of Rann of Kutch | Photo: Praveen Jain | ThePrint
Devaria walking on the white desert of Rann of Kutch | Photo: Praveen Jain | ThePrint
Devaria at the Gandhidhan station | Photo: Praveen Jain | ThePrint
Devaria at the Gandhidham station | Photo: Praveen Jain | ThePrint

Subscribe to our channels on YouTube & Telegram

Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it

India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.

But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.

ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.

Support Our Journalism