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Rediff.com  » News » When Modi served vision, not vitriol, in cups of tea

When Modi served vision, not vitriol, in cups of tea

February 13, 2014 03:13 IST

When Modi served vision, not vitriol, in cups of tea

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Prasanna D Zore in Ahmedabad

Prasanna D Zore travels to Ahmedabad and gives us a first-hand account of Narendra Modi’s unique ‘Chai Pe Charcha’ campaign, as the BJP leader spares his opponents the usual onslaught while squarely stressing on his plans to provide goods governance to the aam aadmi.

One couldn’t have come closer to the Bharatiya Janata Party’s prime ministerial candidate. Gone was the security cordon thrown around a VIP accorded Z Plus security cover. Instead, Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi was surrounded by a bevy of youngsters from Citizens for Accountable Governance as he launched his ‘Chai Pe Charcha’ campaign in Ahmedabad on Wednesday.

There was but just one security cordon around the firebrand leader, consisting of not more than six gun-toting guards. And in front were ordinary citizens eager to put forth their issues before a man who many consider would be the next prime minister of India.

If Aam Aadmi Party’s Delhi chief minister (Arvind Kejriwal) can sleep on the streets to seek dismissal of a couple of cops, his Gujarat counterpart can surely sit on the streets, albeit on a chair, for discussing good governance!

In a scene that was reminiscent of AAP’s strategy of directly mixing with the people, BJP’s prime ministerial hopeful tried to pull up a fast one when he hit the streets on Wednesday to directly address the masses using technology the way only he can use.

The programme, coined by the BJP using the 'tea-seller' barb hurled at Modi by rivals, was simultaneously held at 100 locations in 300 cities across the country.

The joke doing the rounds at one of the venues was that soon the BJP will file a patent for the unique way in which NaMo hooks up with his fans.

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Image: Narendra Modi interacts with people as he launched his 'Chai Pe Charcha' campaign on Wednesday.
Photographs: Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com

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'Had we got in BJP supporters, it could have led to crowd control problems for the police'

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Gujarat BJP functionaries refused to come on record when asked if Modi was trying to emulate Arvind Kejriwal in terms of directly mingling with the aam janta from across the country.

These functionaries also refused to comment on whether it was a clever ploy not to get the state unit of the party galvanise thousands of supporters to throng the seven places in Ahmedabad where the event was held, including the one in front of the city’s most prominent landmark for the elites -- the Karnavati Club.

“Had we got in our people it could have led to crowd control problems for the police,” said a state BJP spokesperson.

Interestingly, with “Chai Pe Charcha” -- organised by the CAG, an NGO that is gearing up to match AAP’s erstwhile avatar India Against Corruption -- the BJP seems to be testing the waters in the months before the final electoral showdown.

“We want to find out the response of the non-BJP, neutral voters to these programmes,” said Paras Shah, a CAG member and a die-hard Modi supporter.

That perhaps explained the low turnout to listen in to the BJP strongman. Not only were there not more than 80 to 100 people at Himmatlal Park, just about 4 kilometres away from where the chief minister was addressing the nation, the crowd at Iskcon Temple was thin too.

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Image: Low turnout of listeners seen at Himmatlal Park during the campaign
Photographs: Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com

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'He is a man of action. Words are a poor substitute for his actions'

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There were more police and traffic personnel guarding the streets facing the area from where Modi was delivering his answers to a nation hungry for good governance.

What seemed most startling was the fact that many people walked out midway while Modi was speaking, a kind of blasphemy for hardcore BJP supporters. Blame it on the mess the organisers made of the audio arrangements, “but the fact that Modi was not attacking his political rivals also cut down the entertainment value of his speeches”, said a number of young enthusiasts.

Kavita Topania, a housewife from Ahmedabad, who is also a member of the Karnavati Club, said that she was there to listen to Modi. But she was happily clicking pictures with her friends in front of a huge LCD screen relaying Modi’s address.

“He is a man of action. Words are a poor substitute for his actions,” she said, rather justifying why she was not part of the crowd listening to Modi.

For a change, there was no vitriol in Modi’s speech. There was only vision. Is that what explains the thin crowd at Modi’s Chai Pe Charcha launch?
 


Image: A lone street kid watching Narenda Modi's address on a giant screen at Karnavati Park
Photographs: Prasanna D Zore/Rediff.com

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