Tea Vendor Modi vs Hotel Waitress SoniaJune 30, 2013
Tags: Tea Vendor Modi, Hotel Waitress Sonia, Antonia Maino, Sonia Gandhi, Cambridge, Narendra Modi, Gujarat
“Mrs Gandhi was 18-year-old student at a small language college in Cambridge in 1965, making ends meet by working as a waitress in the Varsity restaurant, when she met a handsome young engineering student.” When he was six years old, the man who could be India’s prime minister helped his father sell tea to passengers whenever an odd train came into the small Vadnagar station in Gujarat, says a recently released book titled “The anatomy of Narendra Modi – the man and his politics” authored by Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay.
“As our eyes met for the first time, I could feel my heart pounding . . . as far as I was concerned, it was love at first sight,” she wrote later in a rare moment of self-revelation, the paper said. “I had a vague idea that India existed somewhere in the world with its snakes, elephants and jungles, but exactly where it was and what it was really all about, I was not sure.
Antonia Maino (Now Sonia Gandhi) later told her family: “I’ve fallen in love with an Indian. He is a sportsman. He’s the blue prince I always dreamt of.”
Three years later, Sonia Maino, the daughter of a modest Roman Catholic family from Orbassano, near Turin, married Rajiv Gandhi , who went on to become India’s prime minister two decades later.
In 1965, Sonia Maino was briefly a student at the Bell School of Languages. It is understood that she studied for the Cambridge diploma, a now defunct six-week course in English literature and language for overseas students, the paper said.
‘The young Miss Maino took work babysitting and as a waitress at the Greek restaurant and found life in the University City quite different from small-town Piedmont. She was eating at the restaurant one evening when Gandhi – whose place at Trinity College had been achieved through family connections with the Master, Lord Butler of Saffron Walden – slipped into the chair beside her,’ said the article.
But her time in Cambridge also created some political difficulties for Mrs Gandhi. Her entry in the Indian parliamentary Who’s who contains the false claim that she was a Cambridge University scholar, an “error” repeated frequently in the media. Cambridge has confirmed that it has no record of her attending the university, the Times said.
Former defense minister George Fernandes accuses Mrs Gandhi of allowing the confusion to arise. “Cambridge does not have a diploma course in English,” and the incorrect biography showed that Mrs Gandhi was “a woman who lies about even small things,” he said.
Mrs Gandhi’s supporters dismiss the controversy saying the Who’s Who entry was either an editorial error or just a “thoughtless mistake,” and say that she is being singled out for vitriol because of her foreign origins, Catholic religion and gender, said theTimes.
‘Coaxed out of her reclusive lifestyle to save the Congress movement, Mrs Gandhi, 57, now finds herself on the brink of power. She will become the fourth Gandhi to hold power in India and the first European to rule since Lord Mountbatten of Burma. It has been a long journey from the days when she was a carefree teenager who once shocked India by wearing a miniskirt. Today, she regards herself as “completely Indian,” ‘ said the Times.
Indiatoday reported: Narendra Modi was an ordinary boy from a middle class family, the third of four children, and life was literally dark when he was young. The family house was poorly lit and had little natural light; the kerosene lamp added to the smoke and grime.
There was nothing remarkable about Modi’s childhood except that he got attracted to the RSS – which later helped him grow politically. At 18, he decided to wander in the Himalayas, leaving behind his family and an unconsummated marriage.
According to Nilanjan Mukhopadhyay, who has authored a gripping biography of the Gujarat chief minister, the years from 1967 to 1971 “are somewhat mysterious” in Modi’s life. He would disappear at times for months at a stretch. The trait remained with him. In 1995-96, Modi went to the Gir forest on his own and slept in an old temple. “I actually enjoy loneliness.”
It was after the 1971 war with Pakistan that Modi formally joined the RSS and moved into the Hedgewar Bhawan. His early responsibilities included making tea, breakfast and evening snacks for senior colleagues. He also swept and cleaned the building, which then had eight-ten rooms.
Modi proved his mettle while doing risky underground work during the 1975-77 Emergency, often travelling in disguise and on a motorcycle. (Soon after, he completed M.A. as an external student from Gujarat University.) Seniors in RSS soon realized his excellent organisational skills and analytical mind.
Modi’s rise in the RSS was rapid – in part because “he was also equally adept at picking his mentors and making use of them for furthering his career”. He was among the first two Pracharaks who began working full-time in the BJP.
His role in helping the party win the Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation election in 1986 raised appreciative eyebrows. Within two years, he was the organising secretary of the Gujarat BJP. Modi learnt the ropes of party politics by attending BJP public meetings – quietly sitting in the back and listening to speeches.
He also built an extensive network across the state – a move that later helped him to checkmate all his rivals and take control of the BJP in Gujarat.
L.K. Advani’s Rath Yatra was Modi’s first national-level political assignment. But it was Murli Manohar Joshi’s Ekta Yatra to Srinagar where he had a more major role to play. Not everyone in the Gujarat BJP liked him though; Keshubhai Patel, Shankersinh Vaghela and Kanshiram Rana resented Modi’s lateral entry into the BJP’s top echelons.
But “over time, Modi used the contradictions and rivalries among these leaders to his own benefit by using one against the other.” When Keshubhai Patel was the chief minister, Modi was known as “super CM”. It caused him problems. But after some isolation, he bounced back, in part with Advani’s blessings.
In 2001, the boy who once sold tea to train passengers became its chief minister – and then presided over one of India‘s worst communal frenzy.
The Godhra killings gave Modi a distinct identity – “a label which he has displayed brazenly ever since”. According to Mukhopadhyay, Modi strongly believes that if minorities wish to feel safe in the state he governs, they will have to abide by the value systems of the Hindu community. It is this Hindutva politics Modi represents as he prepares to lead the BJP in the 2014 Lok Sabha battle.
Modi – the book says – is one of the trendiest male politicians in India. He was among the first to possess a digital diary. He is always well groomed. He goes for made-to-order Modi kurta with hand-tailored button holes. He is at home in Western attire too. He has a weakness for designer fountain pens – Montblanc.
A workaholic, he also never forgives anyone who has wronged him. Those who have known Modi tell the author that he is an authoritarian who won’t allow anyone to grow beyond a point. He is ruthless — with ruthless efficiency.
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Modi’s tea shop
Representational Image of Child Narendra Modi