’I am the original’: Modi lookalike hits campaign trail

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In this file photo taken on April 10, 2014, Indian businessman Vikas Mahante, a lookalike of India's Narendra Modi who won the prime minister position in the 2014 election, speaks on the phone as he prepares for an election campaign event in Mumbai. (AFP)
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In this photograph taken on April 17, 2019, Abhinandan Pathak, a lookalike of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, speaks with youths as he campaigns in a national election bid as an independent candidate in Lucknow in India's Uttar Pradesh state. (AFP)
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In this photograph taken on April 17, 2019, Abhinandan Pathak, a lookalike of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, gestures as he campaigns in a national election bid as an independent candidate in Lucknow in India's Uttar Pradesh state. (AFP)
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In this file photo taken on April 10, 2014, Indian businessman Vikas Mahante, a lookalike of India's Narendra Modi who won the prime minister position in the 2014 election, arrive for an election campaign event in Mumbai. (AFP)
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Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrives to address a rally ahead of Phase VI of India's general election in Allahabad on May 9, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 13 May 2019
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’I am the original’: Modi lookalike hits campaign trail

  • The 57-year-old businessman, who even played Modi in a little-known 2017 biopic, has been the star attraction at rallies

LUCKNOW, India: His white beard neatly trimmed and a sleeveless jacket thrown over his traditional Indian shirt, Abhinandan Pathak turns heads thanks to an uncanny resemblance to the country’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
But Pathak — almost the same height and build as the PM, and who even walks in a similar way — is no ordinary doppelganger.
Bitter at Modi’s “failed promises,” Pathak is running as an independent against Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in India’s marathon election — and is getting a lot of support.
The largest election on Earth wraps up on Sunday May 19, after seven weeks of intense campaigning and the votes of 900 million Indians.
“The anger (toward Modi) is real. I can feel it wherever I go,” Pathak, 58, told AFP from his one-room shanty home in the northern city of Lucknow, in India’s most populous state Uttar Pradesh.
When Modi was first elected in 2014, Pathak was a supporter. Because of his resemblance to the premier, people “adored me, they asked for selfies and hugged me.”
“I was showered with love. People thought that if they can’t meet the real Modi, they might as well meet me,” he said.
“But now they get angry when they see me. They ask me ‘where are the good days’,” he said, after Modi’s 2014 election slogan “achhe din ayenge” (“good days will come“).
Pathak’s brightest moment came in May 2014, when he says Modi hugged him during a victory parade in the city of Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh.
But it was all downhill after that. He was ignored by the party and his many letters to Modi went unanswered, Pathak said.

Lookalike candidates are nothing new in the colorful world of Indian politics. Their presence invariably invokes curiosity, with crowds thronging to catch a glimpse of the duplicates.
In Mumbai, another Modi lookalike — Vikas Mahante — has been out and about on the campaign trail in a district of the city, and on a BJP ticket.
The 57-year-old businessman, who even played Modi in a little-known 2017 biopic, has been the star attraction at rallies.
But it can get hairy. Once people threw stones at him and he had to be rushed to safety. Now the lookalike has his own bodyguard.
“Once I was chased by a gang of men around midnight while I was returning from a rally,” he told the Hindustan Times daily in 2017.
“(I) stepped on the accelerator, jumped all signals and didn’t stop anywhere.”

In 2014, Prashant Sethi lapped up being a dead ringer for Rahul Gandhi, the scion of the country’s Nehru-Gandhi political dynasty and Modi’s main challenger in both the 2014 and 2019 elections.
Sethi, who sells fried chicken in Surat in the western state of Gujarat, was reportedly offered a film role too.
But now the Modi supporter has had enough. He has transformed his look: putting on weight, growing a beard and changing his hairstyle — all to look different from Gandhi.
“Me and my family have been supporters of the BJP since the beginning. But because of my look I was always teased,” Sethi told AFP.
“People had started calling me pappu,” he said, referring to a common nickname — used by Gandhi’s detractors — for slightly stupid individuals.
“So I had to change my look,” he said.
But back in Lucknow feisty father-of-six Pathak has no wish to change.
“Why should I? I have been in politics since the 90s and I have always sported the beard and kurta,” he said, referring to a traditional Indian long-sleeved shirt, and showing a picture from his younger days.
“I am the original one, Modi is my lookalike.”


You’ll never eat alone at the ‘LiverFuul’ street food cart

Updated 22 May 2019
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You’ll never eat alone at the ‘LiverFuul’ street food cart

  • Many Egyptians support Liverpool FC because of Mohammed Salah
  • The dishes are named after various players in the team

CAIRO: In Ain Shams, just east of Cairo, an ordinary street food outlet has been transformed into something of a shrine to English football club, Liverpool FC.

The LiverFuul cart is testament to two things — Egyptians’ love of the fava bean dish called fuul and their adoration of Egyptian Liverpool striker Mohammed Salah.

Somehow, owner Mohammed Ibrahim Sayed managed to marry his love of food and football to create the café that is drawing cheers and laughs on social media.

(Arab News)

And he didn’t stop with the pun-tastic name, Sayed also came up with a slogan for his outlet based on the football club’s own — he changed “You’ll Never Walk Alone” to “You’ll Never Eat Alone” and came up with a logo based on Liverpool’s.

“We were thinking about a start-up for Ramadan and we landed on the idea of a fuul cart, which many Egyptians visit for the suhoor meal,” Sayed told Arab News.

“As for the name, (it had) to be different and, at the same time, relevant and trendy. Nothing was more trending than Liverpool FC in Egypt because of our Egyptian player Mohammed Salah. That’s how we landed on LiverFuul.”

(Arab News)

And the quirky, football-related names don’t stop there, each dish on the menu is named after a Liverpool player.

Peckish customers can order Wijnaldum falafel, named after the Dutch player, while those after a hearty dish of fuul can order the Origi beans, named after another player.

Defender Virgil van Dijk also has a dish named after him.

(Arab News)

"After the success we have found on the street and on social media platforms, we are thinking of expanding and thinking of more vehicles in different places in Cairo," Sayed said. 

“The young people come from everywhere in Cairo, in addition to the people of the neighborhood,” Sayed added.