Modi's chai pe charcha: Punekar 'tea's off' as first female participant

Feb 13, 2014, 07:54 IST | Priyankka Deshpande

Sheetal Kanago Patade, who works in city-based IT firm, raised a question about different  ways to reduce poverty in the country before the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate yesterday

Putting to rest speculations on whether women would partake in Narendra Modi’s ambitious chai pe charcha campaign, 35-year old Sheetal Kanago Patade became the first female participant to ask the BJP’s prime ministerial candidate a question yesterday. The event took place at a thousand different locations in 300 cities between 6 pm and 8.45 pm, where people aired their queries and suggested solutions on good governance to the Gujarat chief minister. However, Kanago raised a question about different ways to reduce poverty in the country.

Q and A: Kanago, a resident of Wakad, read about chai pe charcha on Facebook, and sent a question online, which was picked. Pic/Mohan Patil

“I heard that before the event, doubts had been raised about whether women would participate in the movement. However, I proved that not only can women take part in such political discussions, but they can also share innovative ideas with fellow countrymen,” said Kanago, who works in city-based IT firm. A resident of Wakad, Kanago read about chai pe charcha on Facebook, and sent a question online, which was picked from among a thousand others from the city.

During a press conference in Delhi on February 2, media persons had expressed scepticism about participation of women in the event, which was rubbished by leader of opposition in Lok Sabha Sushma Swaraj, who told them to wait for the occasion, before passing judgment. 

“Initially I was nervous, but later when I saw people from various places fearlessly asking questions to Modi, I also put my query before him and he gave a satisfactory reply,” said Kanago. She asked Modi how opportunities would be created, which would help the poor find sources of living. To this the BJP leader replied that one could help the poor according to their needs, so that they become empowered and come out of the vicious circle of poverty.

A missed opportunity

However, not everyone was as lucky as Kanago. Professor in a city-based college, Kavita Darvekar, also wanted to ask Modi a question regarding the issue of the country’s burgeoning population. However, she had to return disappointed.

“Considering the time constraints, only one representative was supposed to ask a question from each city, so that all the thousand locations could be covered.

However, Punekars would again get a chance to speak with Modi in the same event, where they would be able to ask more questions,” said local BJP leader Sandip Khardekar. 

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