“Can a tea vendor become prime minister?” This question blazons across banners hanging from at least 20 strategically located tea stalls in Patna.
“If yes,” the banners urge whoever cares to look and consider, “then come to Gandhi Maidan on October 27.”
That day, and the banners don’t mention this, Gandhi Maidan will host Narendra Modi’s Hunkar Rally, his first public address in Bihar since he was chosen BJP’s candidate for prime minister. The projection of Modi as a “humble tea vendor’s son” is part of BJP’s effort to cash in on his EBC roots in a state with a sizeable population of backward caste voters.
“We have come up with unique ideas for different places. NaMo tea is for Patna. We are telling about a tea vendor’s journey and talking about his aspirations,” says state BJP chief Mangal Pandey.
And the banners are there to publicize the rally and get people talking. “A tea stall is a place where people from all sections of society gather and discuss politics,” says Dilip Kumar Yadav, who has hung a banner at his stall at Mandiri and sells “NaMo tea”. “Modi, who sold tea in his childhood, represents all of us,” Dilip says. Fellow tea-stall owners Pawan Thakur and Munna Kumar share his sentiment.
And people are talking. “There is a lot of buzz about Hunkar Rally,” says Ramesh Kumar, who is at Mandiri tea stall to sip “NaMo tea”.
BJP Yuva Morcha general secretary Nitin Navin is elated after visiting some of the tea stalls. “We can see people’s immediate connect with Narendra Modi. NaMo tea has been a hit and will leave a bitter taste in the mouths of our opponents.”
The ruling JD(U), however, is not impressed with such “cheap theatrics”.
“Visitors should first find out if it is healthy to sip NaMo tea,” says the party’s Rajya Sabha MP Ali Anwar. “Amir-e-shahar ki hamdardiyon se bach ke rahna, ye sarse bojh nahi sar bhi utar lete hai (Beware the sympathies of rich for they don’t just take burden off your head, but head itself).”