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Modi turns 71 with 50 m 'thank you' cards, 18 m Covid-19 jabs
People cut a 71-kilogram cake to celebrate Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's 71st birthday at an event in Ahmedabad. -- Reuters
People cut a 71-kilogram cake to celebrate Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's 71st birthday at an event in Ahmedabad. -- Reuters

NEW DELHI: Indian Premier Narendra Modi turned 71 on Friday with authorities carrying out record vaccinations and his party launching celebrations featuring events including blood donation camps and distribution of fruits and rations to orphans, the poor and old people's homes.


The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is also printing 50 million postcards with Modi’s photograph and a "thank you" message that will be posted to him by party workers and supporters from across India, domestic media reported.


Indian states administered a record 18 million vaccinations by early evening, the government vaccination site showed. The drive, seeing a whopping 42,000 jabs a minute, would likely surpass 25 million milestone for the day, officials said.


BJP's programmes include holding exhibitions on Modi's life, cleanliness drives, quiz contests and fairs to showcase the government's achievements, a statement from the party said.


The programmes would end on October 7, the day Modi became chief minister of Gujarat state for the first time in 2001.


The BJP celebrates Modi’s birthday every year as Seva Diwas or day of service in Hindi. The extended celebrations this year come at a time when Modi’s popularity appears to have dipped according to a recent poll by the India Today media group.


The government’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis and unemployment have been cited as the main reasons the sharp dip in his popularity though he still topped the list of those suited to be the next prime minister of India.


Political bellwether states of Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat are among those where regional elections are due in 2022. Both are governed by the BJP.


The opposition Indian National Congress party’s youth wing gave a call on Twitter to mark Modi’s birthday as national unemployment day. -- dpa


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