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Vadnagar Tea Bubbling Up In Gujarat Poll Pot, With BJP In Prestige Battle Against Congress, AAP On PM’s Turf

The first thing you notice when you enter the small Vadnagar railway station is a huge building wrapped in a sheet with marigold flowers on it. Suddenly some young boys come and remove the garlands and tell me that they are stale and that they put new ones up every morning.

But what is so special about the structure? It is a replica of a tea stall. Vadnagar station is now famous as Prime Minister Narendra Modi started selling tea here while helping his father who would also sell tea at this station to earn a living.

The tea stall is now a tourist attraction and the Ministry of Culture has decided to convert it into a heritage site. It is covered with glass and its original shape is protected. The station director tells me that a replica has been made and brought to Delhi where it will be displayed. Sources say that there is a plan to display this tea stall replica in the Pradhanmantri Sangrahalaya or PM Museum in Delhi.

But it is Vadnagar who is excited. The small, sleepy town, about 100 km from Ahmedabad, rarely sees much activity. But now the Prime Minister has flagged down the Gandhinagar-Varetha train passing through Vadnagar. It’s part of a heritage circuit and with the train stopping here to pick up and drop off tourists, the shops around have been spruced up, giving hope for economic activity and growth.

Vadnagar railway station. Pic/News18

It was the humble cup of tea that catapulted the chief minister of Gujarat to the highest post of prime minister. And again, as the state moves towards elections, the tea has become the fulcrum of politics. The Congress has burned its fingers and refrains from making jokes about the ‘chaiwala’ issue against the Prime Minister, but the Aam Aadmi Party has decided not to hold back and has come up with a plan.

As we exit the station, we see young volunteers serving what they call “extra sweet chai”. In 2017, the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party lost in the Prime Minister’s hometown, which falls under Unjha constituency in Mehsana district. The BJP is now aggressively trying to court this area and constituency to push Congress out, but more importantly, to ensure that AAP does not advance. But for AAP, it’s more about proving a point, or rather a tea point.

So the volunteers are seen outside the small station serving tea. One sip and if you say the sweetness kills you, they say, “We want to tell the BJP that their chai has lost its sweetness. We’ll bring it back.”

Vadnagar is the axis of the BJP’s emotional value, as the station master and a BJP supporter tell me. He’s Yogesh Patel and he says, ‘We don’t have to prove anything. The Prime Minister has shown that he can grow from humble beginnings to the most powerful man. He gives back to Vadnagar what he got from here. This place is now going to be well connected.”

But for the BJP, it has now become another prestige battle. Now that the Congress has conquered the Saurashtra belt in the 2017 Gujarat polls and the BJP has almost been wiped out, the ruling party’s mission is to get back here. And for AAP, it is the party’s way of using the cup of tea to make it clear that the BJP cannot succeed in its mission.

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