The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was forced to shift a NaMo tea stall from the vicinity of the venue where Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi addressed party workers in Raipur on Wednesday.
Police ordered relocation of the tea stall – symbolic of the modest roots of the party’s prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi – as it was considered too close to the indoor stadium, the venue of Gandhi’s party meeting.
The BJP’s youth wing, Bharatiya Janata Yuva Morcha (BJYM), is engaged in setting up the tea stalls as a means to connect with the voters in the run up to the Lok Sabha elections.
“We came to know about such a plan and strictly told them not to venture anywhere close to the venue to set up a tea stall as it will not be acceptable. They were asked to shift somewhere else,” Raipur superintendent of police OP Pal told Hindustan Times.
After the Congress’ defeat in the recent assembly elections, this was the first visit by Rahul Gandhi to Chhattisgarh’s capital Raipur.
The Congress leader interacted with party workers and leaders, took questions and suggestions and later addressed the gathering. He spoke to famers, tribal leaders besides panchayat and block representatives owing allegiance to Congress.
BJYM leaders were, however, upset over the administration’s orders.
“We are setting up mobile tea stalls at various points across the city to offer tea free of cost. It is sheer coincidence that the spot selected for Wednesday is close to the venue of Rahul Gandhi’s meeting,” state BJYM president Anurag Singhdeo said.
“Our aim is just to run a campaign in support of Narendra Modi and has nothing to do with the Congress programme.”
Raipur BJYM president Sanju Narayan claimed that the plan to put up a tea stall at Budha Talab, which is close to the indoor stadium, “was chalked out much earlier”.
“Now, we have been forced to shift half-a-kilometre away,” he said.
But the Congress said that the BJYP – and BJP’s -- aim was to “create controversy”.
“The BJP is known to create needless controversies,” said Congress spokesperson Shailesh Nitin Trivedi.
Rahul’s visit is seen in the context of the party’s preparation for the upcoming Lok Sabha polls. Chhattisgarh has eleven Lok Sabha seats but the Congress had won just one in the last polls.