SP leader draws flak over tea vendor jibe

    By IANS,

    New Delhi : Samajwadi Party (SP) leader Naresh Agarwal’s comment that a tea vendor could not become prime minister came under severe attack from the BJP Thursday.

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    Narendra Modi, the prime ministerial candidate of the Bharatiya Janata Party at whom the comment was targeted, said the SP leader was poking fun at the poor.

    “It is not a jibe about me… these people, born in rich families, are making fun of the poor,” Modi said.

    “Even a shoe-polish boy can determine the fate of this country if he is capable,” Modi said, at a rally in poll-bound Chhattisgarh.

    Agarwal, a Rajya Sabha member from the SP, had said Wednesday: “Narendra Modi says he used to sell tea. He wants to be prime minister now. A tea vendor can never have a national outlook”.

    Modi, who became chief minister of Gujarat in 2001 for the first time, used to sell tea at railway stations as a child.

    Agarwal later regretted his comment, saying it hurt the poor. He, however, did not extend an apology to Modi.

    “If my statement has offended any poor person, I regret making such a remark,” Agarwal said Thursday.

    BJP leaders, meanwhile, slammed the SP leader’s comments.

    “He (Agarwal) claims to be a member of the SP these days. A genuine ‘Samajwadi’ (socialist) should be proud of this man (Modi), rather than regret this man,” leader of opposition in Rajya Sabha Arun Jaitley said.

    BJP spokesperson Nirmala Sitharaman said: “The people who are feeling threatened by Modi are speaking such language.

    “In fact, it speaks well of democracy… what is wrong is the intention with which he spoke,” she said.

    Congress leader Sandeep Dikshit also slammed Agarwal, but added that Modi was responsible, in the first place, for lowering the level of political discourse.

    “I don’t think he (Agarwal) should have gone to this level… it is condemnable against anybody, but lowering political discourse is something Modi has been doing,” Dikshit said, pointing at Modi’s repeated jibes at Congress president Sonia Gandhi, and vice-president Rahul Gandhi.