RJD chief Lalu Prasad's bid to project himself as a central figure in the 'secular resistance' to Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi's prime ministerial bid has extended to matching the latter's 'chaiwala' play.
RJD workers have set in motion their plan to run ' Lalu tea stalls' across Bihar in what looks like an attempt to pit the party chief's 'more humble than thou' beginnings against Modi's projection as a man who once sold tea for a living.
The first 'Lalu Chai stall' came up on Thursday in Ahiapur locality near zero mile in Tirhut divisional headquarters town of Muzaffarpur in north Bihar, about 75 km north of the state capital, Patna.
The location of the tea stall was significant in that it stood at a tri-junction from where roads lead to north Bihar political hot beds of Darbhanga, Madhubani, Champarans and Samastipur.
RJD workers serving tea to people at Muzaffarpur (Kumar Uttam/HT)
"We want to call Modi's bluff that he sold tea at railway stations. What we know is his father ran a canteen in which he helped out. It's Lalu, who sold tea as a student to eke out a living in his early days," claimed Iqbal Shami, an RJD leader involved the Lalu tea stall project.
The effort may look like a copycat version of Modi's 'Chai pe charcha' (discussion over tea) campaign but the RJD brass insist opening Lalu tea stalls is an 'innovative idea'.
"We are offering something extra. Along with tea, we have thrown in long biscuit puffs which the people of Bihar love to dip in the brew. Around 1,000 people will be served each day", explained Sami.
This, he claimed, would enable the RJD to connect with the electorate in 21 assembly segments in north Bihar, where the party had a traditional support base. "We will open 17 such stalls in the district. Today, we used 100 litres of milk to prepare tea," added another leader.
Said RJD state vice president Harendra Kumar: "People from over seven districts of north Bihar travel through these roads. This is the best place to connect with the masses".
He said the campaign would run in Muzaffarpur till Modi's proposed rally in the town on March 3. The RJD has planned a public meeting of its own in the town on the same day and applied to the district administration to allot the party grounds for hold it.
The BJP was, however, unimpressed. "The RJD is bereft of original ideas. Lalu chai shop is a copy of our campaign," said Mangal Pandey, state president of the party.
"Nobody can match Modi's popularity and his innovative ideas. RJD's is doing such things just for cheap publicity," he added.