New Delhi: Narendra Modi’s Twitter account had an unlikely visitor on Tuesday. The account, which has 3.1 million followers, updated an image of Modi meeting actor Salman Khan on the occasion of a raft of festivals that include Makar Sankranti, Bhogali Bihu, Pongal and Eid-e-Milad.

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate offered Khan a serving of Undhiyu, a Gujarati dish of mixed vegetables, for lunch, according to postings in the account. Both of them ended a busy afternoon by flying kites, something that Modi has often been seen doing.

“I have met Modi for the first time and I liked it," Khan said at a press conference. “I hope we meet again."

While such updates from Modi’s account may point towards a deep friendship between the two, Tuesday’s meeting was completely extempore.

Khan went to Ahmedabad to promote his film Jai Ho. He was received by Modi’s representatives at the airport, who extended him an official invitation for the three-day International Kite Festival (IKF) 2014 festival.

A publicist for Khan said “it was not Salman who jumped onto Modi’s bandwagon, but the other way round." Khan didn’t get paid for participating in the event, said the publicist, who didn’t want to be named. A person close to Modi said he did not know how the meeting was arranged.

One of the parts of Khan’s promotional tour included flying kites marked with the title Jai Ho. People present with Khan at the event said that Modi flew a Jai Ho kite, at which point the Hindi movie star asked him to give the release an entertainment tax break in Gujarat. Modi didn’t respond to this request.

This is not the first time that Modi has been seen with prominent Muslims. In December 2012, while campaigning for Gujarat state assembly elections, he was spotted with cricketer Irfan Pathan at a rally in Kheda.

Both Pathan and Khan are young representatives of a community that Modi has had a difficult relationship with. Such appearances are always looked at in a context that would show Modi attempting to reach out to a part of the electorate that he and his party have not been naturally aligned to.

Brand consultants were quick to acknowledge the larger implications that such meetings have for the prime ministerial candidate.

“I think this has symbolic significance rather than real significance. It just makes a point that the Muslim opposition against Modi is not a monolithic force. It’s a very small step towards showcasing that the (Muslim) opposition is not as universal as you might have imagined. Directly, this does not influence voting," said Santosh Desai, managing director and chief executive at brand consultant Future Brands. “Modi does have an agenda and he is trying to change his image and these attempts help but only a little."

“This is part of the election campaign that Modi has started and continuing astutely," said Abhay Dubey, a fellow at Centre for the Study of Developing Societies, a think tank. Dubey suggested that such moves would not actually help to reach out to the Muslim electorate in the country but might actually work to assuage the moderate Hindu who has reservations about Modi’s secular reputation.

“I don’t think that this would help Modi change his image amongst members of the Muslim community, who are not going to vote for him," Dubey said. “The aim seems to be the moderate urban Hindu voter, whose support Modi clearly needs."

Nandini Ramnath in Mumbai contributed to this story.

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