The story of Vadnagar station

This must be one of the better known small stations in India:

Vadnagar

And this is its tea stall (though it does not seem to have functioned for a long time).

Vadnagar tea stall

A FAQ of the last few years has been whether the present Prime Minister had indeed sold tea here during his younger days (maybe 1960-65).

One answer you may have seen in the popular media is that the station did not even exist until 1973 so the above assertion is wrong.

But it is always better to check the primary records.

It is easy to find that Vadnagar is on the Mahesana-Taranga Hill metre gauge line (which is presently being converted to broad gauge). It is presently on the Western Railway.

This line was initially constructed by the Gaekwar’s Mehsana Railway (spellings as in original records).

Mehsana to Vadnagar was opened on 21 March 1887.

Vadnagar to Kheralu on 12 December 1888.

Kheralu to Taranga Hill on 20 August 1909.

(Mehsana was linked to Ahmedabad since 1879).

Vadnagar station is shown in the Indian Bradshaw (timetables) of 1935, 1943 and later.

So it certainly did exist before 1973.

What some people have said is that it (like other stations on this route) was very small and had little or no amenities until 1973. It is a little difficult to verify this unless one is familiar with this area for a long time.

Reference is also made to an RTI which allegedly says that no record (of any tea stall owned by Mr Damodardas Modi at Vadnagar station) can be found. Even if this is true, it does not mean much as such details may be too unimportant for records to be maintained since the 1960s.

The conclusion is that there is no definite proof that Narendra Modi did or did not sell tea at Vadnagar station in the 1960s.

Tail pieces:

1) This line is expected to be opened after conversion to broad gauge in 2019 or 2020.

2) No one has proposed changing its name to Modinagar. There is anyway another slightly larger station called Modinagar in UP, between Delhi and Meerut:

Modinagar

This has nothing to do with the PM or Gujarat. It was known as Begamabad until the 1950s until it was renamed. That was because of the industrial township started by Gujar Mal Modi, presumably a Marwari. The present generation would not have heard of him, but they would have heard of his grandson Lalit Modi.

The real and the false Modinagar

As everyone knows by now, our present Prime Minister is supposed to have spent some of his youth (perhaps around 1960-65) at a tea stall at a wayside station in Gujarat. This is what it looks like now:

Vadnagar-main

And this is supposed to be the tea stall where he worked:

Vadnagar-TS

While we are at it, here is the school he went to. It is close to the railway station:

Vadnagar school

A report mentioned that Modi attended Bhagavatacharya Narayanacharya (also known as BN) High School, a co-ed Gujarati-medium school right next to the Vadnagar railway station. However Vadnagar probably sees less trains than it did in the 1960s. The reason is that most of the major routes in Gujarat (and elsewhere) which were on metre gauge have been converted to broad gauge. And if you are still on metre gauge, you are cut off from most long distance trains and may have to make do with local slow trains from the nearest junction with broad gauge. Here you can see the full timetable of trains at Vadnagar station:

Vadnagar TT

This tells us that it sees precisely 3 pairs of DMU trains daily (and 2 on Sunday) which run between the mainline junction Mahesana (MSH) and the terminus at Taranga Hill (TRAH). In happier times (as in the 1976 timetable) there was one passenger train which ran all the way from Ahmedabad to Taranga Hill. Perhaps this forsaken route may be taken up for gauge conversion now, once their man is in the country’s leader. There are probably several less important metre gauge lines in Gujarat which have already been converted.

Here is one of the little trains which presently run on this route. This is standing at Mahesana.

Mahesana-Taranga Hill DMU

Update: the Mahesana-Taranga Hill section was closed for conversion to broad gauge in December 2016. So Vadnagar has no train service today.

Another update from 2018: Congress supporters have said that NaMo’s claims of helping his father sell tea at Vadnagar station are false as Vadnagar station did not exist until 1973. Strictly speaking this is not true as the station is listed in historical records as being built in the 19th century.

I have verified that, and that it has been listed in the Indian Bradshaws of 1935, 1943 and a few later years before 1973. It is now being said that the station was a tiny halt station with no amenities until it was upgraded to a proper station in around 1973. The truth is somewhere in between.

So much for the genuine Modinagar. The other one is here

Modinagar

This is a somewhat larger and better known place, north of Delhi on the way to Meerut and Saharanpur. It is on a semi-main line and some important trains do stop there, though not the Shatabdi, Jan Shatabdi and Nanda Devi Express which pass this way to and from Dehradun. Neither does the Golden Temple Mail (earlier known as the iconic Frontier Mail). These are some of the trains at Modinagar which were running in 2015: Modinagar TT No less than 35 trains a day, though not all run daily. You can board a train here for faraway places such as Mumbai, Okha, Ahmedabad, Indore, Ujjain, Jammu and Bilaspur. There are several other express trains which do not stop there.

Now, this town in Uttar Pradesh is named after Rai Bahadur Gujar Mal Modi (a Marwari unlike our PM) who was mainly responsible for setting up the Modi group of industries. He died in 1976. Most of the group companies are not doing well now. The younger generation may not have heard of him, though they would have heard of his famous grandson Lalit Modi. Incidentally he is said to have declined a knighthood and asked for an Indian honour instead-hence the Rai Bahadur title.

The station was renamed from Begamabad, which you will see in timetables of the 1940s and earlier. So now you know which is the genuine Modinagar and which one only has his name. There is another Modipuram on the highway north of Meerut, which also has some of the near-defunct factories of the Modi group. That is served by the small station of Pabli Khas, where only passenger trains stop.