Gujarat election 2017: BJP laps up Congress’ ‘chaiwala’ meme against Modi
BJP said the meme could become an issue in the 2017 Gujarat Assembly Elections just as Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s ‘merchant of death’ remarks in the 2007 state polls had turned the discourse to anti-Godhra riots.Updated: Nov 22, 2017 11:04 IST
The BJP is preparing to corner the Congress on the issue of Gujarati “asmita” or pride by making an electoral issue of a meme posted by the Indian Youth Congress with a derogatory reference to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s past as a “chaiwala” or tea-seller.
Sources in the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party said the meme could become an issue in the 2017 Gujarat elections just as Congress president Sonia Gandhi’s “merchant-of-death” remarks in the 2007 state polls had turned the discourse to anti-Godhra riots.
They said that the meme would be one of their poll planks in Gujarat, especially after the Prime Minister starts campaigning from the last week of November.
The meme came in the form of a tweet from the official handle of the Youth Congress’ online magazine, Yuva Desh. It showed US president Donald Trump and British Prime Minister Theresa May with Modi and punned on May to make a reference to the Indian Prime Minister’s past as a ‘chaiwala’.
The Youth Congress later deleted the tweet, saying it strongly disapproved such humour through memes and that Congress culture imbibes respect for the Prime Minister and all political opponents.
Gujarat chief minister Vijay Rupani was quick to pounce on the opportunity as he termed the meme “blatantly classist”, showing the opposition party’s mindset towards India’s poor. Other senior BJP leaders followed soon.
“Madam Sonia Gandhi & Mr Rahul Gandhi do u still believe that only u have a divine right to rule India? Country expects ur response on the tweet of the youth Congress, which is shameful & insulting to poor. U can delete the Tweet but ur thinking towards the poor stands exposed (sic),” Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad tweeted.
“Those who can not rise above ‘mom’ and ‘mam’ are running ‘meme’,” Madhya Pradesh chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan also wrote on the micro-blogging site.
The BJP is planning to harp on Modi’s image to retain Gujarat, a state where it has been in power since 1998. It has planned a rally of Modi is almost every district of the western state to highlight that Gujarat’s son was ruling India and he should not be weakened.
“There is a message that if Modi loses Gujarat, it will weaken him in 2019 when the country will have the next Lok Sabha election. This is something that Gujarat will not let happen,” a Union minister told the Hindustan Times.
Modi is expected to start touring Gujarat after November 25 and his campaign will pick up from December 2.
A similar “chaiwala” jibe by Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyer in the run-up to the 2014 election saw the BJP mounting a concerted attack on his party for what it called its discomfort with the rise of the son of a person from the backward community.
At a Congress conclave before the Lok Sabha election, Aiyer had said that Modi would never become the prime minister and, if he wanted, he could sell tea at the Congress meeting venue.
This was lapped up by Modi’s campaign managers and an event called “chai pe charcha” was conceived.
Gujarat will vote in two phases on December 9 and 14 and the result will be declared on December 18.