Watching the rare warmth and friendliness between Obama and Modi I was reminded of the abrasive remark made by Mani Shankar Aiyer, a member of the Congress Party, a former diplomat and a Cambridge alumnus to boot, in the august assembly of All India Congress Committee in March 2014. He had said that Modi would never become the prime minister of the country – at least not in this century – and went on to add that, instead, the Congress could make arrangements for him to serve tea to Congressmen whenever the occasion demanded. The snide remark was made as Modi used to sell tea in his childhood in his native town of Vad from the tea stall run by his father at the local railway station. Such undiplomatic conceit and pomposity from a former diplomat who happened to have served from a diplomatically sensitive position in Pakistan was not only unexpected, it also displayed acute lack of culture.
Be that as it may, Modi won the elections two months later from two constituencies and his Party won an overwhelming majority. Aiyer, however, suffered his second successive defeat from the same constituency from where he contested as many as six times since 1991. As far as Modi is concerned, Aiyer’s “chaiwala” remark made no mean contribution in his electoral victory – with his “chai par charcha” becoming a resounding success and took his campaign via the electronic media to the farthest nook and cranny of his party’s constituencies. On the other hand, Aiyer’s Congress lost so heavily that it plummeted to the third position in the Parliament with numbers that didn’t permit his party’s chief, Sonia Gandhi, to even become leader of the Opposition. What is more, since that victory in May 2014 Modi has routed the Congress in most of the states elections.
All that apart, the same “chaiwala” has struck a fantastic rapportwith the US President who made a mention of their “chai par charcha” during his press briefing on 25th last. Modi’s bonhomie with Obama and other leaders such as Abe of Japan and Abbott of Australia has raised the image of the country internationally. Aiyer may try his best to run down the Obama visit by erroneously describing him as a “lame duck” President who, on the contrary, sealed the Nuclear Deal with Modi making it ready to be operationalised 6 years after it was signed – a decision a “lame duck” president could not have taken.
Any person other than Aiyer would have felt ashamed after his various faux pas and kept quiet, but not Aiyer. He is made of sterner stuff !