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Narendra Modi’s Proposer Politics – The curious case of the missing Chai-wala

Friday, 25 April 2014 - 10:27pm IST | Place: Varanasi | Agency: dna

The search for the proposer in BJP prime ministerial Narendra Modi’s nomination form started right from the moment his candidature from Varanasi was announced. As the day of filing his nomination neared, this search became more and more ardent. The BJP started preparing a list of the people who could propose Modi’s name when the prime ministerial candidate filed his nomination.
Rumours and several names flew around, including some big ones. People did huge amounts of research to come up with a typical Varanasi-based socio-cultural list. From word of mouth, it was found that the list comprised ten names, including the owner of the city’s famous Keshav paan shop.

Former Justice Girdhar Malviya, the grandson of Pandit Madan Mohan Malviya, the founder of Banaras Hindu University (BHU) was on the list as well. He is an eminent scholar and is said to be involved in the Ganga Movement, apart from being associated with several other social issues. The biggest name on the list, which was added at the last minute, was semi-classical vocalist Pandit Channu Lal Mishra, who had till date never supported any political party from any stage his entire life. Mishra has been with awarded the Padma Bhushan. When he was approached by the local BJP leaders and the media, he accepted the offer right away.

The biggest blow to the BJP’s secular drive was from Zamin Hussain Khan, the son of late shehnai maestro Ustad Bismillah Khan, who categorically refused to be Modi’s proposer, saying he wanted to stay away from politics. “My father was an apolitical man and never proposed any politician’s name,” he said. There were also a boatman and two weavers on the list, but they could not be found. Of all the big names which were being considered, the most known was Varanasi resident Vishwanath Singh alias Pappu Chaiwala, who owns and runs the famous Pappu tea shop, located in the old Assee locality and a centre for socio-political discussion in the temple town for several decades.

Pappu’s shop is a gathering place for elderly people, youngsters, artists, poets and political representatives, and it is also quietly known for bhaang users. This place is surrounded by a small market and heavy traffic, but still considered a spot for intellectuals, including tourists and researchers from the abroad. The chai stall is said to be 100 years old, started by Pappu’s father long before Independence. The shop has become an unshakeable part of Varanasi’s culture.

Nicknamed “English Tea” after its preparation style, this shop has witnessed years of remarkable history and culture, and its tea is also very special. And the tea itself, instead of being prepared in one big pot, is made individually for every glass.

Modi and his procession of nearly 2 lakh people that gathered from all the adjoining districts of Eastern Uttar Pradesh and bordering districts of Western Bihar performed all kinds of gestures in order to impress the Varanasi voters. They garlanded idols of Madan Mohan Malaviya and Sardar Patel, and discussed the issues about the Ganga and weavers based in the holy city. But the biggest surprise came from the corridors of the Varanasi Commissionary offices when only four people came as proposers for Modi. They were former Justice Girdhar Malveey S/o Late Shree Govind Malveey, Channu Lal Mishra S/o Late Shree Badree Prasad Mishra , Veerbhadra Prasad S/o Kumara who are locals of the Varanasi Cantt assembly seat and Ashok S/o Bhaiya Lal a resident of the Varanasi south assembly seat

While AAP leader Arvind Kejriwal’s ten proposers were spread across from various assembly seats of Varanasi, of the four proposers for Narendra Modi, three were from Varanasi Cantonment assembly seat itself.  

Vishwanath’s name was innocuously missing from the list of of proposers. His absence led to an end of the “Chaiwala” wave people were raving about over the past days where Narendra Modi who claimed he was a tea seller before joining politics. That’s when Vishwanath’s name was gained priority on the list of proposers when BJP started stating that, “Ek chai-wala jo aaj desh ka netritva karne ja raha hai uska prastawak, ek chai-wala jaroor banega” (With a tea vendor now on his way to run the politics of this country, surely one of the proposers will be a tea vendor too!)

Vishwanath was contacted by local BJP cadres sometime last month when his domicile and other details were taken and sent to senior leaders for referral. But till the last moment he had no no clue about his proposed role in the nomination process. Senior BJP leader Ravi Shankar Prasad addressed a brief press conference on Wednesday night at the Hotel Soorya where he gave out details on the entire program of the nomination procession and only named four proposers, who were eventually the only ones present with Narendra Modi at the EC office.

While both the BJP’s local office bearers and senior leaders chose to keep mum about Vishwanath being conspicuously absent during the nomination process, the media too chose to avoid asking any questions. Vishwanath has also remained silent over the entire issue and stayed away from making comments. Vishwanath’s absence however is still not understood, as he holds a certain kind of respect amongs many for being a non-controversial soft spoken man amongst many in Varanasi and elsewhere. And although the BJP did their best to make Modi’s nomination procession a landmark event with all sorts of arrangements, calculations and event planning, his presence at the nomination could have added a local Benarasi touch and been a symbol of the cultural resilience in the BJP. It would also have added colour to the new emerging secular image that the BJP has been espousing this election season. 

 

All views mentioned here are of the writer's alone and do not represent that of this newspaper.




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