Narendra Modi, the prime ministerial candidate of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), is set to invite at least 10,000 tea- sellers to his upcoming public meeting in India’s financial capital Mumbai, providing a new twist to the fuss over his own past as an ordinary tea vendor.
As a boy, Modi reportedly helped his father sell tea to passengers that came into the tiny Vadnagar railway station in western Gujarat state.
Modi’s mateoric rise to prominence has ruffled many of his opponents, prompting Naresh Aggarwal, a leader of the regional Samajwadi party, to question his credentials. Reports quoted him as saying that Modi with his tea-seller background would never have a national perspective.
Modi reacted to the criticism, saying it was better to be a tea-seller than selling out the nation, referring to corrupt politicians in power.
The planned November 22 rally in Mumbai is expected to reaffirm Modi’s modest past.
Aggarwal’s jibe quickly backfired with Modi and his associates turning the tables saying the rich were mocking the aspirations of the poor. At a rally, Modi was quoted as saying that in a democracy even those polishing shoes stood a chance of becoming prime minister.
The ruling Congress distanced itself from the jibe with a senior party politician Digvijay Singh saying “even a chaiwallah (tea vendor) can become prime minister.”
For Modi, the intended barb about his tea-selling past was welcome as he has been the butt of criticism for making a series of gross errors while recollecting historical facts during his public meetings.
For example, he said the ancient Taxila university was in the Indian state of Bihar when it was actually located in present-day Pakistan. Several other goof-ups have provoked even his party colleagues to advise him to be cautious when making public statements of fact.