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BJP hits back at tea taunt with chai campaign

Modi and Advani at the national council in New Delhi on Saturday. (PTI)

New Delhi, Jan. 18: Every delegate’s eyes and ears were fixed on Narendra Modi on the first day of the BJP national council.

Every other luminary ensconced on the dais, outfitted with a backdrop of the Parliament edifice, at the Ramlila grounds was secondary as were the speeches and interventions on the economic resolution that was passed today.

Stung by Congressman Mani Shankar Aiyar’s advice to Modi to set up a tea shop at the Congress headquarters in Delhi instead of aspiring to become the Prime Minister, the BJP announced a “chai-centred” campaign for its Prime Minister candidate.

In the next few days, Modi will park himself at a tea stall in Ahmedabad or Gandhinagar, hook up with tea vendors across the country who will be selected by local BJP leaders and video-chat with them and their customers on Skype or Google hang-out. “This is our answer to Aiyar,” a spokesperson stated.

The only thunderclap of applause in today’s congregation was sounded when the speakers mentioned Modi’s name. The convention’s centrepiece did not utter a word and mostly sat expressionless, thumbing sheaves of paper, through the day. He will deliver the concluding address tomorrow.

So even the economic resolution — billed as a precursor to the BJP’s forthcoming Vision Document and manifesto — finally identified Modi as the cure-all for the numerous ailments it listed as afflicting the Indian economy.

Rajya Sabha Opposition leader Arun Jaitley, piloting the resolution, retaliated against Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi for his nuanced swipe at Modi in yesterday’s AICC plenary.

Without naming the BJP, Rahul remarked that an Opposition party was adept at marketing itself with such razzmatazz that it even tried to convince people that it could sell combs to the bald pated.

In 2013, while addressing the “Vibrant Gujarat” summit at Gandhinagar, Modi celebrated the entrepreneurial skills of Gujaratis and claimed they were capable of persuading bald persons to buy their combs.

Rahul even had a dig at the Aam Aadmi Party’s predilection for hyberbole, saying a new party boasted of giving haircuts to bald men.

Jaitley’s repartee was: “Yesterday I heard a speech that said one Opposition party sells combs to the bald and another styles their hair. The speaker forgot to add that there is a third party that takes commissions even on combs and haircuts.”

He underscored the BJP’s agenda to stick as closely as possible to attacking the Congress on the UPA’s “scams”.

The economic resolution, after waxing eloquent on inflation, corruption, tax reforms and black money, the rupee’s free fall and other UPA omissions and commissions, put its finger on the pulse or what the BJP imagined was the pulse: “What India now needs is a real dose of political leadership to put the derailed economy back on the tracks…. Therefore, the BJP has presented to the nation a decisive and progressive leader in Narendra Modi.”

The only leader who was heard out intently was Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan. Obliquely attacking Aiyar for his “chai-wallah” jab, Chouhan invoked a heartland aphorism to make the point that “small mortals” should not attack those who don’t compare in stature: “Kahan poonch ka baal, kahan moochon kaa baal?” (Is the hair on an animal’s tail the same as a human moustache?)