Milking 'chai wala' barb against him for all its worth, Narendra Modi sipped tea at ease as he interacted with the common man across 1000 places through video, attacking Congress over governance and black money, which he promised to bring back after becoming prime minister.
The BJP's prime ministerial nominee, who has made senior Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar's jibe at his humble origin, when he sold tea with his father, a political weapon to hit out at Congress while connecting with the masses, likened bad governance to diabetes which drains a nation of its vitality.
Dubbing black money as a "national worry", Modi said he was committed to bringing it back from tax havens abroad, "which no other government can do" and distribute a portion of it among the salaried people who honestly paid their taxes.
"No matter how strong the body is, once it's afflicted by diabetes, it begins to host multiple diseases. Bad governance is like diabetes. Corruption sets in, there is no development and people are condemned to suffer," he said in an interface with common people as part of his "Chai Pe Charcha" programme.
Taking time off his high-pitched rallies, Modi castigated Congress at leisure over governance, saying "When a country of a hundred and twentyfive crore people loses faith in its elected government, how can the nation run? Mahatma Gandhi gave us Swaraj (self rule) but we could not bring Suraj (good governance)."
Responding to a question, the BJP leader dubbed accumulation of black money as an "anti-national" activity and vowed to bring it back from tax havens abroad even if it required amending existing laws and enacting new ones.
"The whole country is worried over black money. Black money is anti-national activity. We will set up a task force which will give it recommendations about how to bring it back. If required, law will be amended and new ones enacted. I am committed to do this because this money belongs to the poor people of India," he said. Modi said, if he became the prime minister, he would launch an incentive for the salaried people who paid their taxes honestly by apportioning part of the black money so recovered to them.
"We will set aside 5-10 per cent of the black money recovered from tax havens for them. Honest tax payers will get incentive and thieves the punishment," he said amid lusty cheers and clapping by the crowd. In his opening remarks, Modi, who described tea shops as "footpath parliament", did not forget to refer to his origins as tea vendor.
"Today, when I have come to talk with you over tea, childhood memories come streaming. I am reminded of incidents of slights and insults. It was a special experience," he said. Responding to a question about terrorism, Modi said there should be zero tolerance towards it and effective laws needed to be enacted to check the menace.
"Terrorism has no colour, no religion. We should put it down with a firm hand without any discrimination. Effective laws and modern technology can help tackle it," he said. To a question from a man in Uttar Pradesh, who lamented "poor" law and order situation in the state, the Gujarat Chief Minister said, the Centre should desist from interfering in the eventuality of such a problem as it is a state subject, but lend a helping hand.
He underscored the need for preparing a national data base of criminals for improved detection and coordination between states in tackling crime. Modi, while replying to another query, suggested unbundling of the responsibilities of Food Corporation of India for procurement, storage and distribution of foodgrains to enable farmers get remunerative price and people quality product. Deploring that none of Indian universities figured in top 100 academic institutions in the world, the BJP leader stressed the need for improved research by universities.
"In the US and other western countries, governments base their policies, say on Tibet, on research papers prepared at universities. Policies so prepared would any day be better than the ones formulated in government offices," he said.
Modi said the poor of the country had the first claim to nation's resources but deprecated giving them alms. "The poor have the first claim to national resources, but I support helping them stand on their feet and not survive on alms. If a cycle is given to a man who sells goods door to door, he will cover larger area in lesser time. I am for empowerment of this kind," he said.
The programme, described as 'out of the box' initiative by BJP, was relayed at 1,000 tea stalls in 300 cities across the country, including 61 places in 22 cities and towns in Gujarat. Of these 1,000 locations, direct interaction happened from 30 places from where people shared their views, made suggestions on governance and asked Modi questions.