If Barack Obama could sell ice cream, what's wrong if I sold tea? Asks Narendra Modi

MumbaiBJP leader Narendra Modi at BKC on Sunday; crowd at the rally. Photos: Pradip Das

Among the estimated 4.5 lakh supporters of Narendra Modi, the BJP's prime ministerial candidate for the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, at his Mahagarjana rally at the Bandra-Kurla Complex (BKC) on Sunday, about 300 chaiwallahs (tea vendors) enjoyed a rather special status.

Taking the Congress's jibes over Modi's beginning as a tea vendor in its stride, the BJP decided to issue VIP passes to tea vendors. While the BJP claimed to have sent invites to 10,000 tea vendors in the city, party leaders said owing to security restrictions, those without passes were not allowed to enter the premises.

The BJP had intended to make a separate seating arrangement for tea vendors but the plan did not materialise.

Modi, in his recent speeches, has referred to his childhood and adolescent years when he was a tea vendor. On Sunday, he said, "I have read reports that my party has extended invitations to tea vendors for the rally. If US President Barack Obama could sell ice cream, Abraham Lincoln could work as woodcutter, former President of India A P J Abdul Kalam could sell newspaper, what's wrong if I sold tea? To me, every citizen of India is important."

Kamlesh Patel (35), a native of Udaipur in Rajasthan has been selling tea in the Bandra Reclamation area in a small stall for eight years. "We liked the strong manner in which Modi spoke to the crowd," he said.

He added that BJP workers had asked close to 15 tea vendors from his locality to attend the rally.

Jagdish Daya, also a native of Rajasthan, started with a tea stall in Bandra (East) 20 years ago. The stall is now a 125-sq ft make-shift shop. "Meeting Modi was like a dream come true. There is no leader today who comes even close in comparison to him," said Daya.

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