BJP's prime ministerial nominee and Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday kick-started his much-anticipated 'chai pe charcha' – discussion over tea – addressing and interacting with audience at around 1,000 tea stalls in 300 cities across the country.
The theme of Modi's first 'chai pe charcha' was good governance on which he made the opening remarks for five minutes and then invited questions from the audience present at different venues equipped with huge TV sets or projectors.
Modi himself was present at a tea stall opposite Karnavati club on SG highway in Ahmedabad and from there he interacted with his fans and supporters.
He answered a questions ranging from tackling black money to promoting clean energy, skill development, law and order, government jobs etc. from the audience.
"In our country, a tea stall serves as a means to livelihood for the poorest of the poor and also serves as a 'footpath Parliament'. When I have come here today, I naturally go back to my childhood. I recall I learnt a lot when I was selling tea... it was an experience...," he said in his opening remarks.
"Today we are going to discuss good governance while sipping tea. Mahatma Gandhi gave us 'swaraj' but we couldn't achieve 'suraaj' (good governance) and that resulted into people losing faith in the governments. We need to restore the faith of the people in government."
On a question on tackling black money, he described "black money" as anti-national activity. "The whole country is worried about black money. I assure the countrymen that when we form a government in Delhi, we will create a task force and make or amend laws to bring every single rupee deposited in foreign countries by Indian citizens."
He even announced an incentive scheme for regular and genuine tax players and salaried class, saying that 5 to 10% amount from the total amount of black money brought from abroad will be distributed among regular tax players as incentive.
According to Modi, eastern Indian has not seen development despite abundant resources like land, water, coal etc.
"We need development in states like Bihar, Odisha, West Bengal, Northeast states. I think special attention needs to be paid to states in eastern India. Bihar is not poor and people there are very talented but bad governance and a peculiar political culture in the last 20 years has destroyed the state."
In Bihar, hundreds of tea stalls -- many of them on and around Patna's Beerchand Patel Marg, where the BJP's Bihar headquarters are located -- turned into impromptu 'NaMo' tea stalls and setting for a grand tea party all present reveled in.
"Never quite sold as many cups of tea as long as I can remember, than I did today," admitted a beaming Sahkkhu Bhaiya, owner of a tea stall in close proximity to where many Bihar MLAs have taken residence.
When Patna's turn came, the honour to confront Modi with a question fell upon the shoulders of one Gopal Prasad Yadav, owner of the 'national tairak tea stall' at Kazipur (Patna). The tea shop name appeared to have a reference to the owner's credentials as an erstwhile national-level swimmer.
He fumbled and fumbled, not sure whether he had to ask a question or it was Modi's responsibility to do so. But he had the right credential – a Yadav, who constitute over 12% of Bihar population and believed to be the vote bank of RJD chief Lalu Prasad.
Scores of tea stall sold hundreds of cups of tea during the PR exercise. In the process, a bit of the NaMo persona was sold, too, to an excited audience. In the run-up the parliamentary polls, the BJP is likely to organise around 15 sessions of 'chai pe charcha' and the party is aiming at directly interacting with around two crore voters through the medium.