'Chaiwallahs' also in the 'fray' in battle for Banaras

'Chaiwallahs' also in the 'fray' in battle for Banaras

'Chaiwallahs' also in the 'fray' in battle for Banaras

You will only be half right if you think that the battle for Banaras is being fought only by the BJP, Congress, BSP, AAP or SP.

One only has to visit the temple town, take a walk on its chaotic and noisy roads and narrow and cramped lanes and one will easily realise that the thousands of ‘chaiwallahs’ (tea vendors), who dot every nook and corner of the town, are also in the fray though not for the record.

Be it the crowded ‘ghats’ on the bank of the highly polluted Ganges or the non-existent pavements in densely populated localities, the tea shops have emerged as the nerve centres of electoral discussions and debates. The discussions, that may stretch for hours, often get noisy and animated, though clashes rarely take place.

The ‘chaiwallah’ angle seems to have entered the electoral battlefield owing mainly to the BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi's oft-repeated assertion that he himself had been a tea seller in the early years of his life.

Many ‘chaiwallahs’ in the town appear to have been inspired by this reference to ‘tea seller’ and one could see the saffron flags fluttering atop their shops. ‘Kallu tea stall’ at the Rajendra Prasad Ghat on the bank of the Ganges is one of them. “Modi has made us proud”, he says and exudes confidence that Modi is a ‘certain winner’ here.

Bachha Prasad Gaur, who also runs a small tea shop at Ramkatora locality, concurs. “Modi has no competition here....his rivals cannot match his personality”, Gaur told Deccan Herald.

Gaur also has some demands which he expects Modi to meet. “The prices of tea leaves and milk have risen sharply in the past few years....I will request Modiji to do something in this regard”, he said.

Not all ‘chaiwallahs’ are amused by Modi's ‘tea seller’ past though.

“How does it (Modi being a tea seller in the past) make any difference to us? Will it in any way change our lives?”, asked Munna, the owner of a tea stall at Gulab Bagh area in the town. Munna, whose tea shop is barely a few meters away from the Congress nominee Ajai Rai's election office, is all praise for Rai. “Rai is local...he is always available to us...where will we find Modi after he wins and becomes the Prime Minister of the country?”, he seeks to know.