|A hoarding of BJP’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi in Silchar. Picture by UB Photos
New Delhi, March 7: Narendra Modi’s “Chai pe charcha with NaMo” is going Northeast, setting a stage for a series of engagements with the region in the run-up to the Lok Sabha polls.
The BJP’s prime ministerial candidate has seized the opportunity on International Women’s Day tomorrow to empathise with northeastern women in the capital. The BJP has invited these women living in New Delhi and NCR “for a discussion over tea with Shri Narendra Modiji”.
Women, mainly from BJP workers’ families and invitees, will ask Modi questions about the principal theme of the discourse: women’s empowerment.
The event is being organised at the party office lawns here.
Modi was also the first to take up the Nido Tania case, raising it at his Meerut rally last month, days after the Arunachal Pradesh student was killed in New Delhi. The Congress and Aam Aadmi Party immediately followed suit and the government stepped in to declare a slew of measures to prevent alleged racial discrimination against people from the region.
With the issue still raging and Assam on the BJP’s radar, Modi hopes to connect with the Northeast diaspora in the capital to make gains in the region.
Women from the region have been found to be the most susceptible to assaults and discrimination.
“Modiji had said at a meeting in November that he had made ‘a resolve in life’ to meet people from the Northeast every month,” said a party worker.
The “tea party” concept, about which former DoNER minister Manishankar Aiyar often speaks with passion, is being used for the Northeast. It was after Aiyar’s remarks at a Congress conclave about Modi’s past as a tea-seller that the Gujarat chief minister came up with a counter-idea of chai pe charcha.
The concept was of letting Modi interact through videoconferencing with people at designated tea shops across the country.
|The invite for the tea meet. Telegraph picture
Engagement with the region began early this year after he met BJP’s Northeast Sampark cell members, followed by a meeting with students from the Northeast. Then followed the visits to Assam, Arunachal Pradesh and Manipur — considered by BJP workers as extremely successful campaigns.
Modi is also planning to meet retired bureaucrats from the Northeast and living in New Delhi. The move adds up to over a year’s work by RSS workers to connect to technologists and bureaucrats from the region and egg them on to contribute to the party’s vision.
The Gujarat chief minister has planned another visit to Assam this month with rallies in Tezpur, Dibrugarh and Lakhimpur that go to polls on April 7 along with Kaliabor and Jorhat constituencies. “He will also make another visit to Imphal,” a source told The Telegraph.
Chai pe charcha is expected to boost Modi’s visibility in the region that knows the BJP but does not vote for it. With internal surveys of the party giving an optimistic picture, Modi is not losing focus. Prof. Gangumei Kamei is the BJP candidate for the Outer Manipur seat that is dominated by Nagas and Kukis.
The BJP’s two candidates in Arunachal Pradesh, Tapir Gao and Khiren Rijiju, both former MPs, are also confident of turning the tide against the Congress in the wake of internal strife within the latter. In Assam, where the BJP has four seats, the party hopes to do better despite political pundits terming it a tough task because of a mix of discontent, a shaky relationship with the AGP and the Congress’s likelihood of an alliance with the Badruddin Ajmal-led All-India United Democratic Front.
Although activists were invited by the BJP to the event, some have decided to opt out owing to Modi’s divisive image. Manipur-based activist Binalakshmi Nephram said she would not attend the chai pe charcha. “He has blood on his hands,” she said.