Or the real tea-seller?

Narendra Modi or Lalu Prasad Yadav?

‘I am the real one.’ – Lalu Yadav has made this startling claim in response to Narendra Modi’s efforts to draw electoral mileage from his tea-selling past.

Before this, we did not know that we had any other political dignitary that Mr. Modi from the tea-selling background.

But, Mr. Yadav’s words imply that Mr. Modi’s claims are not to be taken seriously.

Lalu Yadav has contended that Narendra Modi’s claims of being a tea-seller in his childhood days are not creditworthy. Mr. Yadav says he is the original (real) tea-seller of the Indian politics.

Lalu Yadav, who has been notoriously famous for his funny remarks and bantered speeches, said he never found it necessary to tell people about his tea-selling childhood days.

Modesty it may be, but, we cannot say this was a compassionate decision. Whatever be the truth behind Mr. Modi’s tea-boy time, he has eternally been on it, claiming and promoting his tea-selling past. He has been a durable brand ambassador for the tea-sellers across the country.

Lalu Yadav’s tea-selling background could have been a bonus on that. The additional branding mileage that they would have got with Lalu’s endorsement could well have expedited their arrival on the political scene much before. Tea-sellers should sue Lalu Yadav for this unnecessary delay.

Okay, that is for the loss of the tea-vendors and they need to think about that. But Lalu, too, has harmed his political prospects by proclaiming his tea-selling background so late. Suppose, if he plans to counter Modi’s ‘Chai Pe Charcha’ by launching a parallel discussion-on-tea sort of exercise, he would not be able to gain support from the tea-vendors.

And given the prospect of significant political returns by this branding exercise (reaching around 200 million people in 300 cities same day, same time, every week, until the Lok Sabha polls are held), Mr. Yadav’s reaction is natural.

But, how can this be Mr. Modi’s fault if Lalu Yadav could not see the opportunity to gain electoral mileage from the mighty cup of tea, part of almost every Indian’s daily routine, at home, in office, at the roadside tea-stall? If Lalu acted late then why is he blaming Mr. Modi now?

Also, Mr. Yadav needs to blame Mr. Mani Shankar Aiyar before blaming Mr. Modi, the senior Congress politician whose ill-timed jibe at Narendra Modi’s tea-selling past gave Mr. Modi an idea to exploit the public sentiments by connecting to the people during their tea-time at tea-vending spots, dotted across the country, to sell his ‘for the common man’ dreams in the typical common-man-way.

Mr. Aiyar, a member of Lalu Yadav’s political ally Congress, should have discussed first it with Mr. Yadav, before targeting Mr. Modi. Based on his vast political experience and his magnanimous silence on his tea-selling background, Mr. Yadav could have advised Mr. Aiyar well.

But that is a lost opportunity now. Like with several other precedents, this time too, Ahmedabad has scored over Patna.

In the age of hyped up political branding exercises, Mr. Modi has moved first and has accelerated fast.

Whether he was a tea-boy or not doesn’t matter now. Who’s the real one, Mr. Modi or Mr. Yadav, is a futile question in the prevailing political circumstances with Mr. Modi clearly jetting ahead with his first-mover advantage.

Mr. Yadav, better luck next time.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/


A tea-stall in his teens! A tea-boy! A tea-seller!

Narendra Modi has always been claiming so. His party has being saying so. It happens to be the baseline of his profiling anywhere and everywhere – the tea-seller who became a chief minister – the tea-seller who became the prime-ministerial nominee of the Opposition alliance in the world’s largest democracy.

Narendra Modi has enjoyed a numero uno sort of position on the political ramifications of the tea-selling proposition. No other politician had challenged his position in the past as none of them could see any point of electoral mileage in that.

Tea-selling was never an issue before. It was never an electoral issue.

But, it is a hot-issue now. It is a hotly debated electoral issue now.

Yes, selling tea was never so hot.

The temperature has got so steamed up that politicians are engaging in active debate over it with some claiming to be the cohorts of the profession.

Mr. Modi has come up with a massive political branding exercise ‘Chai Pe Charcha with NaMo’ (Discussion on Tea) themed on the ubiquitous tea-time in every Indian’s lifestyle.

Interestingly, this ‘tea themed political discourse’ has its origin in a political remark of the Congress politician Mani Shankar Aiyar who, in a Congress meet in Delhi last month, had taken a jibe at Mr. Modi enumerating on later’s prime-ministerial aspirations and his tea-selling past. (“There is no way he (Modi) can be Prime Minister in the 21st century… but if he wants to come and distribute tea here we can make some room for him.”)

Politically silly statement it was. But it gave Mr. Modi and the BJP an idea to encash on the public-sentiments by exploiting the elements of the ‘Aam Aadmi’ (common man) politics. Tea time is anywhere and everywhere in Indian lives and Mr. Aiyar’s statement gave the BJP idea its peg to theme an elaborate political branding campaign around tea-time in public places.

Now, it’s an undisputed fact that Narendra Modi is the most efficient political campaigner and political brand manager in the Indian polity today. This ‘Chai Pe Charcha’, reaching around 200 million people (BJP’s assessment) in 300 cities same day, same time, every week, until the Lok Sabha polls are held, looks set to become a brilliant electoral campaign.

That is significant for extracting the political mileage during an election time when the ‘Aam Aadmi’ sentiment is running high with the stunning debut of the Aam Aadmi Party in the Indian politics that fought on the poll-planks of corruption and political ascendancy of the common man.

And with that, Mr. Modi has got the first contender to his numero-uno position on his tea-selling roots. The once formidable politician of Bihar who ruled a state and played a kingmaker in the national politics is now claiming that he is the original tea-seller of the Indian politics.

Politically interesting days ahead folks!

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/


It has already begun. The Reuters interview should be seen as the formal announcement – timed and worded the Narendra Modi way!

It is just a matter of time when Narendra Modi is declared the NDA’s prime-ministerial nominee. Anyway, he is already calling the shots. He has started writing the script of BJP’s and NDA’s strategy to approach the upcoming assembly and parliamentary elections.

As expected, it is going to be the reflection of the Narendra Modi style of politics and is going to be based on the experiences gained in Gujarat. And it has to be seen in the light of the growing realization among the majority of the BJP leaders that a wider deviation from the core Hindutva ideology has harmed the party, especially in absence of someone like Atal Bihari Vajpayee.

This would certainly push the party and the coalition strategists to push for a ‘mix’ of religion and politics that could serve the twin purposes of – not looking too deviant on the core Hindutva ideology as well as not sounding communal while wooing the voters on the religious line.

And Narendra Modi has been doing it exceedingly well in Gujarat, especially after 2007 when he won the state the second time.

And so, the cardinal elements of the script are expected to be:

A greater emphasis on the Hindutva branding: As already indicated in the Reuters interview where Modi reiterated himself to be a Hindu nationalist first.

An increasing mix of the hardline ideology as the time progresses: More in sync with the RSS thought process – to stir the voter’s thinking pattern with the notions of Hindu identity and the Hindu pride!

Religion and politics to gel even more deeply: Yes, the BJP may not make the construction of the Ram Temple in Ayodhya an election issue but it is only because the party knows its support groups like the VHP or its ideological mentor RSS would do this bit.

But the party would keep talking about it in varying degrees as Amit Shah spoke about the temple during his Ayodhya visit recently. Expect Modi to polarize and exploit the religious sentiments of Hindus to unite them across the divided Hindu votebanks on similar lines.

‘Gujarati Pride’ to prop up the ‘Indian Pride’: ‘Gujarati Asmita or Gujarati Pride’ has created a huge pro-Modi middle class votebank across the different caste lines in Gujarat. It pulls the affluent class and the Diaspora as well. Modi would love to rake up the imagination of Indians for their position in the globalized world, a not so encouraging picture at all. He would talk and eulogize the Gujarat development putting it in context of the BJP’s performance in the party-run states. The development plank would run parallel to the religious plank.

Expect more of the comparisons like with China and other neighbours as Modi elaborated on in his Pune speech on July 14. The meekness of the Manmohan Singh’s government in dealing with China, Pakistan and other neighbours as well as acting coy in dealing with the global powers like the US can be exploited very well. And there are plenty of such issues.

Besides these are the routine pot-boiler elements like the UPA corruption or the price rise or the falling Rupee.

Elections in a country like India are not fought on statistical manipulations like what the Congress tried to do by putting a point-by-point rebuttal targeting the Narendra Modi’s Pune speech a day after.

In a country that has not had the history of distinguishing between ‘status quo’ and ‘progress’ as the election plank, elections are fought by creating stronger elements of perception putting the adversary in the negative light. Yes, having a pro-development image is an added advantage. And Narendra Modi as the most popular political leader in the country with the twin advantages of being ‘pro-religious’ and ‘pro-development’ looks far more capable than any other leader in any political outfit to deliver it.

So be ready for the fireworks. Narendra Modi knows a small spark lit by him creates a huge fireball taking every political opponent within its reach. And he seems to be enjoying it. That is what he is looking for.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/


“Modi has a poor impression about the Indian people, to be a Hindu nationalist is an oxymoron. Religion can’t have nation. It is a very narrow and unsustainable idea to use a religion and treat it as a companion of nationalism” – External Affairs Minister Salmnan Khurshid, Indian National Congress

“It is a very sad, humiliating and very disturbing statement. He is saying Muslims are worse than even puppies? He should immediately apologise to the people of this nation” – SP General Secretary Kamal Farooqui

“Thousands were killed in the riots and in the backdrop, the analogy used by Narendra Modi needs to be strongly condemned. There is no place for such a comparison in civilised India. It is reflective of his perverse mindset. It is totally against the idea of India….We are unable to understand as to what is the intention of raising such things before the elections,” – Ajay Maken, Indian National Congress

“No one can change the character of any person. This is just the beginning of unveiling of his character, more will come out in future. Nitish always said Modi is fascist, Modi always treated minority with contempt” – Sabir Ali, JD (U)

“I think Narendra Modi is mentally unstable, his psychoanalysis test should be done” – Shivanand Tiwari, JD (U)

“It is utterly shameful that he is justifying the genocide and using inappropriate examples and analogies to trivialise the enormity of it” – Brinda Karat, CPI(M)

“Shouldn’t we all be Nationalist Indians rather than Hindu Nationalist or Muslim Nationalist or Sikh Nationalist or Christian Nationalist?” – Digvijay Singh, Indian National Congress

“There is nothing called Hindu or Muslim nationalist, there is only Indian nationalist.” – Rehman Khan, Minority Affairs Minister, Indian National Congress

The supercharged reactions from the ‘other’ political masters, targeted at ‘the one’ among them – that was exactly what Narendra Modi, the four-time and in-office chief minister of Gujarat and Bhartiya Janta Party’s (BJP) 2014 election campaign committee head and the de-facto prime-ministerial nominee of the National Democratic Alliance (NDA), would have in mind when he decided to endorse his Hindu nationalist identity yet again, after a gap of some time – unlike what he had been trying in the recent past.

The Narendra Modi politics of his recent history was focused on adding elements to his persona and so to his identity that could improve his outreach across the ‘categories’ of the voters in a politics that survives on votebank manipulations.

One of the most telling examples of this was trying to deliver a message to the Muslim community that he was not anti-Muslim. There were Muslim invitees in his events like in his Sadbhavna rallies in Gujarat. He spoke on his projection as an anti-Muslim politician in interviews trying to clear his bad name in the community’s perception.

But that wasn’t going to change things for Modi. It wasn’t that Modi was not realizing it. And so, he never disowned his Hindu hardliner image. Instead, he has spoken about it with great emphasis. It was just that he left talking about it for some time. May be he was driven by an experimental urge to try at least to see if he could make some in-roads in the Muslim community, a significantly larger votebank in many parliamentary constituencies. Also, a warring ally (when it was the case) in JD (U) might well have been a factor as the JD (U)’s secular (read pseudo-secular) concerns and Nitish Kumar’s prime-ministerial ambitions were not ready to accomodate a communal Narendra Modi as the NDA’s prime-ministerial nominee.

With JD (U) gone and with Modi elevated in the NDA, such experiments lost their political or (personal) utility. It was well on the line that ‘the BJP or the NDA could not win the back the prime-ministerial office until it went back to the ‘Hindutva’ line’ (and not agenda, that may or may not be – ‘line’ and ‘agenda’ are to be seen as two separate concepts in the political craft of vote-pulling).

And so, this was it. First was the Amit Shah’s visit to Ayodhya. Though Shah didn’t say the BJP was going to revive its demand of constructing a temple there, the political opponents reacted on that line. Modi reiterating his ‘Hindu nationalist’ (Hindu hardliner) image is the next in line.

Like he said he likes criticism, he knew he would get plenty of that. Modi’s amazing ability to exploit the statements of his opponents targeting him hits the bull’s eye when it finds the support of his polarizing personality.

And here, at stake are the Hindu votes, Hindus who form the 80 per cent of the country’s population and so the majority of the votes.

Modi doesn’t speak about the 2002 Gujarat riots but he realizes its significance for him that makes him the most polarizing political figure in the country. It is true he is an efficient pro-development administrator and has efficiently managed to develop Gujarat after the infamy of the 2002 riots, irrespective of what the different manipulations of the statistics say. But his absolute run in Gujarat also owes much to his polarizing personality that makes him acceptable across the lines of the divided Hindu votebanks.

And taking it out of Gujarat has a political logic for Modi. What he has been able to do in Gujarat in terms of polarizing the Hindu votes would well be on the drawing board of the BJP strategists (led by Narendra Modi). Something hardline like Hindutva or religion is the only factor that can unite the scattered Hindu votebank to a particular political outfit or political personality.

And even if the BJP is not anymore a polarizing political party of that scale, Narendra Modi certainly is.

So when an Ajay Maken or a Kamal Farooqui burst in ‘political anger’ and when the political pundits hammer the computer keyboards and try to ooze fire over Modi’s remarks and when the political opponents, the TV pundits and the media analyze something from a Narendra Modi statement like this ‘puppy analogy’ (though, on going through the interview, it sounds just like a simple, spontaneous analogy in course of the conversation and Modi might not have even thought of it), each one plays exactly on the lines in the game that Narendra Modi is looking set to push further and farther.

Political opponents need to realize that targeting Modi more and more on communal lines only strengthens the brand Narendra Modi. This is something Modi is going to seek more and more in the days to come.

And going by the developments, it looks he has more than enough of the fodder available for him on the platter.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/


Irrespective of the debate – whether Narendra Modi as country’s prime minister is good or bad for India – one thing is quite clear that Modi is the most popular political leader in the country and why he is so popular is exactly the reason he is going to be the biggest vote-puller for the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) and the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) in the upcoming elections.

The BJP and the rest in the NDA realize it well and so the decision taken by Nitish Kumar and so the Janta Dal (United) (yes, Nitish, by his autocratic work style, has converted JDU into a one-man show) is going to hit them back if the BJP-JDU split is a true divorce!

So what makes Modi the most popular political leader in the country (not deliberating on the qualitative aspects of this popularity and its implications)?

A gradual journey to the political top from a poor background: Coming from an Other Backward Classes (OBC) family with limited means of survival, Modi’s organizational journey, first in the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangha (RSS) and then in the BJP, and his political journey from local to regional to national level spans a period of over two decades.

He has earned his political milestones. He has weathered the survival odds. He is a self-made man, a self-made politician and a self-made achiever.

The communal tag: Now here, it is a combination of factors that may sound uneasy and may not be good for the democratic fabric of the country, but works well on Narendra Modi’s pro-Hindutva hardliner image.

Hindus are divided across many caste and sub-caste lines and vote accordingly but Modi has pulled them together in Gujarat (religion being the major factor working in tandem with the development track and the Gujarati pride) and it is largely due to his pro-Hindu hardliner image after the Gujarat riots that he has been performing exceedingly well in the elections.

He is the biggest polarizer of the Hindu votes across the caste and sub-caste lines owing to this Hindu hardliner image and he has the capacity to take his appeal out of Gujarat in the national political arena.

The developmental politics icon: Whatever be said, but Modi has worked as an efficient manager for the development of Gujarat. He has earned not just the national praise, but also the international acclaim.

Being from OBC: The Mandal Commission had said that the OBCs were 52 per cent of the Indian population. Okay, that was a long time ago and these definitions keep on changing, still they form a sizeable chunk and Modi, being an OBC, can unite the OBC votes, backing on his pro-Hindu hardliner image, in his favour, across the country.

A pro-Hindu hardliner and an OBC, who also talks and acts for development – the combination has the potential to upturn almost every political equation existing in the country.

Corruption free personal and family image: He is single. He has a family including mother and brothers. He has been alleged of working for corporate interests. But he has never been alleged of indulging in corruption at personal and family level. That makes him a class apart in an Indian politics soaked in corruption.

It is combination of these factors at play along with Modi’s highly customized and effective oratory that makes him, undoubtedly, the most popular political leader of the country at the moment.

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/