Free Press Journal

Chai Pe Charcha: Serving free tea is a violation of Model Code of Conduct, rules EC


Lucknow: The ‘Chai Pe Charcha’ campaign of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as part of Narendra Modi’s efforts to contrast his humble roots with those of his political rivals, received a blow when the election authorities ruled that free distribution of tea as amounting to bribing voters.

A complaint was filed against several workers of the BJP for not seeking permission from local authorities for organising an event in Lakhimpur district, where the participants, while listening to Modi’s speeches on LED screens, were offered free tea.

The state election office has put a ban on distribution of ‘NaMo’ tea, maintaining that it amounts to bribery to lure voters.

The election office further added that it has written letters to all district electoral officers directing them to act against the free distribution of ‘NaMo’ tea for violation of model code of conduct.

“Anything that is being distributed for free by a political party during election would be construed as an attempt to entice voters, something that is not allowed. If such a programme is organised, they need to seek prior permission. So under the model code of conduct, investigation is going on,” said Uttar Pradesh Chief Election Officer Umesh Sinha.

Meanwhile, the spokesperson of Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), Manoj Jha, welcomed the decision and said that it not just free tea but also encouraged outflow of wrong ideas among the masses.

“If this ban has been implemented I am very happy about it because you know it was not tea, it was not “Namo Tea”, it was selling all kinds of dangerous ideas, free distribution of dangerous ideas were taking place. I am very happy that the Election Commission has done it,” said Jha.

But, BJP spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi, slammed the decision of the Election Commission as biased.

“I am really surprised because it seems there is no parity, because through serving tea we are not only serving tea which is free of cost, we are also on a mission of collecting funds from people under mission 272 and these banners walk along with us and “Ek Note, Kamal par Vote (one currency note, vote on lotus)” is also part of the same campaign,” said Lekhi

Narendra Modi made a strong political pitch on February 12 as he launched the ‘chai pe charcha’, a nation-wide campaign at a tea stall in Ahmedabad. Giant TV screens relayed live interaction with people at tea stalls across the country.

The campaign stems from Congress leader Mani Shankar Aiyar’s tea seller remark, which was an attack on Modi’s humble beginning.