Election Commission of India bans Narendra Modi from offering free tea in NaMo stall

Written by Lalmani Verma | Lalmani Verma | Lucknow | Updated: Mar 11 2014, 19:10pm hrs
In a setback to the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP) attempt to cash in on the 'chaiwallah' background of its PM candidate Narendra Modi through NaMo tea stalls the Election Commission of India directed that free tea cannot be offered at such stalls in Uttar Pradesh.

The EC also directed that the party will have to seek permission from the concerned District Election Officer before putting up such stalls, but cannot offer free tea. An official confirmed that both NaMo tea stall and Chai Pe Charcha are same kind of events and free distribution of tea will not be allowed.

The district authorities have been directed to ensure videography of the NaMo tea stalls and 'Chai Pe Charcha' programme. While issuing permission for NaMo tea stall, district authorities will ensure that the event did not violate Model Code of Conduct (MCC).

The Election Commission issued the directive after receiving a complaint against BJP leaders in Lakhimpur Kheri where they reportedly set up NaMo tea stall without seeking permission and also offered free tea to public who had assembled there to watch recorded speech of Narendra Modi on a LCD screen.

An EC official said that the report sought from the district administration confirmed that the BJP men did not seek permission for the event while the MCC was in effect. An FIR has been lodged against local BJP leaders for violation of code of conduct.

UP Chief Electoral Officer Umesh Sinha told The Indian Express that a directive in this regard has been sent to all the districts today. BJP can set up the tea stalls, but only after taking permission.

Sinha also said that the commission allowed for setting up the tea stalls with a condition that free tea will not be offered to people after some BJP leaders came with the proposal of charging money at NaMo tea stalls, Sinha said.

He added that anything being offered for free by any political party or candidate during elections would be seen as an attempt to bribe voters.

NaMo tea stalls are being organised across the country. In UP, these stalls had started after Narendra Modi began his rallies here. Free tea was also being offered at Chai Pe Charcha programme. Recently, this programme was organised at 74 places in UP on March 8 in which Modi interacted with women and women assembled their were offered free tea even though the model code of conduct was in effect since March 5.

A leader in BJP women wing. however, claimed, Concerned local tea vendors were paid for the tea which they offered to women there.