He is playing the victim card now. Another avatar of his action-reaction theory.
Ever since the Congress Party's court jester Mani Shankar Aiyer said, "Narendra Modi can never become the PM of India in the 21st century. He can sell tea here (at the AICC meet) if he wants", Modi has been marketing his humble origins that he seems to have now discovered. The moment he opens his mouth, you know the tea will start dripping out on autopilot: "Eik chaiwallah...(pause for effect)...eik ghareeb maa ka beta..." And then, "no Congress leader is ready to tolerate a tea-seller, son of a poor mother holding his head high. They mock at the poor".
Aiyer did mock Modi, not tea vendors. Tea vendors would have loved to sell tea at the AICC meet or at RSS shakhas. It is what they do for a living; not all of them are PMs-in-waiting. They have dreams, as do others. It does not mean that they will get an opportunity to capitalise on their work.
But the beverage has come in handy. Arun Jaitley said:
"The strength of Indian democracy will be proved when a former tea vendor defeats a Dynasty representative. Let this be the battle of 2014."
He also happens to be a former RSS man. What is the organisaion's and the BJP's own stand regarding caste and Dalits?
Modi in his latest outing in Gorakhpur spoke against caste politics in Uttar Pradesh. All very good. And convenient. After the tea vendor 'slur' — for the reactions clearly indicate that it was seen as an insult, and you feel insulted only if you believe that the term used is negative in any manner — the CM has decided to use chaiwallahs in different places as part of his campaign. How does this not constitute a vote bank?
While vote bank politics is opportunistic, let us not forget that those who rubbish casteist politics may wish to maintain the status quo. Modi's afterthought about Dalit welfare in his hazy development idea and conflating it with poverty is neither here nor there. It wants them to do well, but will not factor in the hurdles they have faced for centuries and continue to face.
He resorted to his usual rhetoric:
"This country is not poor. The people of this rich country has been kept poor for the sake of politics...We don't want to see India crying and with begging hand. I want to say that you have selected rulers for 60 years, I have come to ask only for 60 months. Elect this servant once and see...You give me 60 months and I promise you a life of happiness and peace."
A few points:
• Indians in a democracy elect representatives, not rulers.
• It is politicians who go begging — for aid, for peace-keeping, or in some cases for visas. Citizens demand their rights enshrined in the Constitution.
• If the people are poor, then the country is poor. Heritage sites do not make a nation rich.
• This business about electing servants is an old trick to become master.
• The 60-months bait is one term, and reveals his ambitions and little else. (Incidentally, Bill Gates has just announced that there will not be any poor in the world by 2035.)
Speaking in a state that has just suffered from riots, Modi did not rake this up. Why? Because pot cannot call kettle black.
Besides, what exactly is his definition of peace and happiness? Can one man ensure it? If we are to go by the Modi response to Mulayam Singh Yadav, then to make a Gujarat you need a "56-inch chest".
Did anyone say, puffed up?
© Farzana Versey