Senior BJP leaders to join Narendra Modi’s ‘Chai Pe Charcha’ campaign

published on January 29, 2014
NEW DELHI: Starting sometime in the first week of February, senior leaders of Bharatiya Janata Party such as Rajnath Singh and Arun Jaitley as well as the party’s heavyweight chief ministers in Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan and Chhattisgarh, will start frequenting tea stalls to discuss politics with locals.

The unusual stopovers will be part of Gujarat CM Narendra Modi’s new campaign, Chai Pe Charcha, which is hoping to stir up a political tempest via tea stalls.

Modi will address and take questions during the high-tech campaign that will be broadcast live at 1,000 tea stalls across 300 parliamentary constituencies.

BJP is expected to contest in less than 400 constituencies in the upcoming general elections. The campaign centred around tea stalls is meant to take Modi’s message to the hub of local political chatter in India and remind people of his own humble origins as a tea vendor.

The campaign also aims to turn the classist jibes made about Modi’s tea-boy background by rival politicians in recent weeks to his advantage. The initiative is also inspired by the ground-level engagement provided by Aam Aadmi Party’s Mohalla Sabhas.

Modi’s interactive sessions will follow a ‘share-ask-suggest’ format, a person familiar with the preparations said. In a typical two-hour session, Modi will speak for 25-30 minutes, listen to suggestions on constituency specific or policy-specific issues for 45 minutes, and interact with the widespread audience for the next 45 minutes. To enable a distributed videoconferencing experience, the organisers, Citizens for Accountable Governance (CAG), are deploying a hybrid technology that combines DTH broadcast, high speed Internet and satellite uplink.

CAG is a volunteer organisation managed by key Modi aide Prashant Kishor. In every tea stall, there will be two stand mounted flat screen televisions. Videocon’s DTH-integrated television sets are being used for the service. So the company will get a marketing slot below the TV sets. A webcam and high-speed Internet dongles will provide interactivity at most places.

In locations where the audience will get to ask pre-selected questions, an entire TV crew, complete with an outdoor broadcasting van or other live satellite uplinking facility, will be present. In each session, questions will be taken from 15-20 locations. The entire session will also be webcast on Modi’s official website.

In some of the sessions, Modi will ask the audience to suggest solutions to public policy issues such as education, healthcare or transportation. Modi will also request people to continue to interact with him through Facebook.

For this, 316 constituency specific pages have been created. These pages, with the format ‘With NaMo, for X constituency’ will act as a hub for live polls, discussions on candidates, etc. Modi will also subsequently interact on these pages,the person familiar with the plans said.

The 316 constituencies where Facebook pages have been created are those with at least 50,000 social media users. Currently these pages appear to have each reached a few hundred users, but that might change as Modi stirs the pot with the campaign. The audience will also be encouraged to share suggestions through SMS and WhatsApp messages, which will also scroll on the screen live during the sessions.

The Modi camp will be hoping that the tea stall strategy can boost the conversations around BJP’s PM candidate.

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