2014年5月17日 星期六

tea-seller;Narendra Modi and the Calculus of Tea

Narendra Modi and the Calculus of Tea

Munna, a worker at the NaMo tea stall who uses only one name, pouring tea in Patna, Bihar, on Sunday.Resham GellatlyMunna, a worker at the NaMo tea stall who uses only one name, pouring tea in Patna, Bihar, on Sunday.
PATNA, Bihar — Arun Pathak, a social worker, and his friends have been meeting at a tea stall near Patna University’s College of Arts & Crafts for years. “We’re all regulars here,” Mr. Pathak said, taking a sip of strongly brewed masala chai.
Last month, a new face showed up at the stall – the printed visage of Indian opposition leader Narendra Modi, whose Bharatiya Janata Party seeks to unseat the governing Congress Party in national elections next spring. In a bid to increase publicity before the massive rally held in Patna, the capital of the eastern state of Bihar, local B.J.P. officials asked tea vendors to brand their businesses “NaMo tea stalls” by putting up promotional posters using Mr. Modi’s nickname.
Mr. Pathak and his friends have continued to gather at the same shop despite its recent branding as a NaMo tea stall. “We are all Congress supporters, but we don’t mind them putting up this poster,” he said, pointing to the image of Mr. Modi. “It’s a democracy. Everyone has the right to speak his mind. We come here and pull out the newspaper and say whatever we feel. It doesn’t matter if Modi’s face is right there.”
“This is the one place in politics where caste doesn’t matter. People all vote on caste lines, but over a cup of tea we’re all secular,” Mr. Pathak said, pointing out the diversity of the customers gathered. “This is where you find the real pulse of Patna.”
Mr. Modi’s rally on Sunday, marred by a series of low-intensity bomb blasts, was seen as an important opportunity for Mr. Modi to woo voters in Bihar, a state with over 100 million people considered crucial to his party’s chances of taking power from the long-dominant Congress Party, which faces growing unpopularity amid corruption scandals and weak economic growth.
And the tea stall campaign is an effort to draw a contrast between Mr. Modi’s humble beginnings as the son of a tea vendor in the western state of Gujarat, which he has governed as chief minister since 2001, and Rahul Gandhi, his Congress Party rival who is the son and grandson of previous Indian prime ministers. In his youth, Mr. Modi carried tea in a kettle from his father’s shop to customers waiting for trains at the Vadnagar train station.
“Here is a man born into a simple, poor family who worked hard to rise up,” said Ravi Shankar Prasad, deputy opposition leader in the upper house of Parliament. “Compare that to the Nehru-Gandhi Congress Party dynasty. They have been passing down power from one generation to the next, but after 60 years of this rule, the people have had enough. Modi’s rise from a chai wallah to the prime minister’s chair will show the great power of Indian democracy,” Mr. Prasad said, using the Hindi term for tea seller.
Mukesh Nandan, a Bharatiya Janata Party worker who administered the NaMo tea stall campaign, at Gandhi Maidan in Patna, Bihar, on Sunday.Resham GellatlyMukesh Nandan, a Bharatiya Janata Party worker who administered the NaMo tea stall campaign, at Gandhi Maidan in Patna, Bihar, on Sunday.
On Saturday, B.J. P. leaders took a break from rally preparations to make tea for reporters at a mobile stall, mimicking the elaborate movements for which India’s chai wallahs are famous, pouring sugary milk tea from one cup to another. “This is our way of saying we are with the common people,” said Mukesh Nandan, a local party worker administering the NaMo tea stall program.
Over two hundred tea vendors had signed up to participate, according to Mr. Nandan, although local residents said they had not seen more than a handful of NaMo tea stalls.
On Fraser Road, a main thoroughfare where thousands marched to the rally waving B.J.P. flags and singing songs dedicated to Mr. Modi, Gopi Tiwari, a tea vendor, said he was proud to show his support through his stand, a wooden cart which he had draped in the signature saffron-orange of the B.J.P.
“It is time for a change. Modi ‘Ji’ was a chai wallah like me so he understands the poor,” Mr. Tiwari said, using a Hindi title of respect.
“Manmohan Singh just sits on his hands,” he said in reference to the current prime minister. “Modi Ji will solve our problems. He will attack Pakistan and bring development like he has in Gujarat.” The customers around Mr. Tiwari’s stand shouted in agreement as a pot of tea began to boil over.
This is not the first time a politician has used tea to curry favor with voters in Bihar. When Lalu Prasad Yadav, a former chief minister of Bihar, became national railways minister in 2004, he mandated that in trains and on station platforms tea be served in kulhars, handmade clay cups, to provide employment for local potters and show his respect for tradition. The effort largely failed and today India’s train tracks are littered with used plastic cups.
“It makes sense that these leaders use tea as a promotional stunt,” said Abhay Singh, a political analyst at The Times of India based in Patna. “Tea stalls are where people gather to discuss politics, and of course candidates want people to talk about them when they are taking tea.”
Not all tea vendors have been eager to participate in the promotion of Mr. Modi. Manoj Rai, a tea vendor who was approached by the B.J.P. but declined to brand his stand a NaMo tea stall, said he did not want to offend potential customers. “I like Congress, B.J.P., J.D. (U), R.J.D., all of them,” Mr. Rai said, listing the abbreviations of major political parties in Bihar. “If my customers like them, I like them.”
While Mr. Modi is trying to use his humble origins to electoral advantage, he does remain the prisoner of his failure to stop the anti-Muslim riots in 2002 in which over 1,000 people were killed. Many of the riots occurred in neighborhoods where poor people lived, including many tea vendors.
Memories of this tragedy still lingered with some of Patna’s tea vendors, who said they would never consider branding their shops as NaMo tea stalls. “Muslims cannot trust this man,” said Mohammad Phul, who runs a teashop in Phulwari Sharif, a predominantly Muslim neighborhood with narrow alleys dotted with mosques. “If Modi wins there will be riots in the streets,” Mr. Phul said.
Zach Marks is a journalist based in India. He is researching roadside tea vendors around the country with Resham Gellatly. Read more of their work at chaiwallahsofindia.com 

From tea-seller to India's top job: The rise of Narendra Modi

IndiaElectionsPoliticsHinduismAutomotive EquipmentManufacturing and Engineering
Narendra Modi's rise to India's top job is remarkable in a country long led by political dynasties
An average student, India's next prime minister once sold tea at a railway station
Addressing supporters Friday, India's Narendra Modi said, 'Good days are coming''
From selling tea to leading his party to a landslide national election victory, Narendra Modi achieved a remarkable rise in a country long led by political dynasties and social elites.
Narendra Damodardas Modi was born Sept. 17, 1950, to a poor family in Vadnagar, in what is now the western state of Gujarat. The third of six children, the young Modi helped his father sell tea at the Vadnagar railway station and, as a teenager, ran a tea stall with his brother near a bus terminal.
Teachers remember him as an average student but keen debater who had an interest in theater.
His family arranged his marriage to Jashodaben Chimanlal when he was 18. Modi acknowledged the marriage for the first time earlier this year, when he filed to run in the election. It was never consummated, according to his biographer, Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay.
Leaving behind his young wife, Modi joined the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, a right-wing Hindu nationalist group. He thrived in the RSS, a volunteer organization that prizes discipline and service to the nation, and he was eventually named to head its student wing.
In the late 1980s, he began working closely with the upstart Bharatiya Janata Party, the RSS’s ideological cousin, becoming its national secretary in 1998.
He became chief executive of Gujarat in October 2001. Just four months into his term, a train car carrying Hindu worshipers caught fire in mysterious circumstances, killing 59 people. Hindu leaders accused Muslims of setting the blaze, sparking communal riots that killed more than 1,000 people, most of them Muslims.
Modi’s government faced accusations of allowing -- even inciting -- the killing spree. But he denied complicity and was cleared of wrongdoing by several inquiries.
In the charged atmosphere, Modi’s chauvinistic Hindu rhetoric played well with voters, and he easily won elections in Gujarat in 2002 and 2007.
Celibate, vegetarian and a teetotaler, Modi earned a reputation for ruthless efficiency, pushing aside party stalwarts with whom he clashed and taking charge of nearly all the key departments in the state government.
On his watch, the Indian car maker Tata opened a major factory in Gujarat to produce a low-cost automobile. Although the project failed, it earned Modi admiration for his aggressive pursuit of jobs and corporate investment.
Eyeing national office, Modi began to soften his image, observing a number of fasts during a "sadbhavana," or goodwill, mission across Gujarat in 2011.
Time magazine put him on the cover of its Asia edition in 2012, and the following year his party made him its candidate for prime minister.
“Good days are coming," Modi told a huge crowd of supporters in Vadodara, the western city where he won a parliamentary seat Friday. “From today, for the next five years, the journey has started.”
Parth is a special correspondent.