India’s One-Woman Tea Party

We’ve seen the role chai can play in politics, whether in Bihar where the BJP set up NaMo tea stalls to remind voters of PM candidate Narendra Modi’s past as a chai wallah, or in Haryana where having a cup with villagers is an essential part of any campaign stop. But in the remote hills of southwestern Odisha, tea isn’t just part of a publicity stunt or a meet-and-greet ritual, it’s the party symbol.


Ahalya Kandapan, a local politician from the small village of Kelar, uses the tea kettle on her campaign posters as a symbol of everyday life. “I represent common people and common people drink tea,” she said.

Check out our article in the New York Times on Mrs. Kandapan’s fight for good governance in this often underrepresented part of the country.