Seeking to put to rest claims that Narendra Modi is becoming bigger than the party he represents, senior Bharatiya Janata Party leader Lal Krishna Advani heaped praise on the Gujarat chief minister and said that the party “is proud of his achievements.” Advani added that he is confident that Modi will get a “thumping majority” in the upcoming Gujarat assembly elections.
He said that everyone is aware of the problem of corruption plaguing India today but said he did not want to comment on the shortcomings of the ruling Congress party as he was speaking in a foreign land. Advani dismissed the possibility of early elections in India, saying that it depends on Mulayan Singh Yadav of the Samajwadi Party, a supporter of the ruling coalition in New Delhi.
Advani, who is visiting the U.S. after a gap of nine years, is among 13 members of parliament who are currently in New York to address the United Nations General Assembly. Accompanying him are P.C. Chacko, Rishang Keishing, Gurudas Kamat, Anu Tandon (all Congress), Najma Heptullah and Ananth Kumar (both BJP), Derek O'Brien (TMC), Vandana Chavan (NCP), Dharmendra Yadav (SP), Satish Chandra Mishra (BSP), N K Singh (JD-U) and P Karunakaran (CPI-M).
Advani, who was accompanied by his wife Kamala and daughter Pratibha, was received at the studio by OFBJP executive committee and prominent community members, including Dr. Sudhir M. Parikh, publisher of Desi Talk and recipient of the Padma Shri award; Dr. Navin Mehta, a trustee of Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, USA; and H.R. Shah, chairman of TV Asia. Chants of “Bharat Mata Ki Jay” and “Advani ji ko Swagat hai” reverberated, as the Advanis made their way inside the TV Asia offices. Kalpana Shukla, Neeraj Bhagat and Janak Anand offered bouquet of flowers to Advani and his wife and the couple was directed to a conference room where they, interacted with community members and OFBJP national executive committee led by President Jayesh Patel and President-elect Chandrakant Patel.
Jayesh Patel briefed Advani about the workings of the OFBJP with 21 chapters in North America, including the one recently inaugurated in Canada. OFBJP aims to work towards projecting a positive and correct image of India and its people and also towards strengthening social bonds among Indian-Americans, irrespective of region, religion, race, creed and color, and help to generate a feeling of oneness and brotherhood, Jayesh Patel said.
Responding to a question asked by Dr. Parikh about the recent inclusion of foreign direct investment (FDI) in retail, Advani said that the BJP believes FDI but not in multi-brand retail and in areas like pension and insurance.
According to the Hindustan Times, BJP president Nitin Gadkari on Oct. 7 said the party will support the no-confidence motion announced by Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee against the UPA government over FDI in retail, insurance and pension. Prime Minister Singh has come under direct attack of BJP on FDI in multi-brand retail issue.
Dressed in a brown bandhgala suit, Advani, who spoke in Hindi, advocated voting rights for all overseas Indians across the board India irrespective of their nationality, to a standing ovation of the audience. He emphasized the need for character building among the people of India. To the delight of the audience that was packed to capacity, he said that “it would be a good idea to grant voting rights to all overseas Indians, even if they had acquired the nationality of another nation.”
Before addressing the gathering, Advani was offered tilak and blessed amidst Vedic chants by the priest pandit Pravin Chandra Sastry and was garlanded by Kalpana Shukla, while Kamala Advani and Pratibha Advani were honored by Shefali Patel and Beena Sabhapathy respectively. Ram Rakshpal Sood acted as the master of ceremonies for the entire program which started with traditional lamp lighting ceremony and paying tributes to India and founders of BJP, followed by the rendition of Vandemataram. A one-minute silence was observed to pay respects to Kedar Nath Sahni, former convenor of OFBJP-USA, who died in India on Oct. 3.
Referring to 9/11, Advani said that the date stands as a significant date for terrorism; however, another 9/11 in 1893 is more significant for India because Swami Vivekananda addressed the world religious congregation in Chicago and made India famous among the comity of nations at that time. Beginning his speech with a reference to the visit of Swami Vivekanand, Advani pointed out that the Swami had spoken about the need for character building among Indian people. "His thoughts are still relevant. India today needs patriotic people who were ready to sacrifice for the motherland."
Advani spoke in detail about circumstances leading to the death of erstwhile Jan Sangh leader Shyama Prasad Mukherjee in early 1950s when Mukherjee led a group of activists into Kashmir without securing an entry permit and was arrested. Later, Mukherjee died in mysterious conditions. "The sacrifice of Shyama Prasad Mukherjee ignited the process of integration of Kashmir into the Indian Union. In order to facilitate full integration of Jammu and Kashmir in India, Article 370 must go," he emphasized arguing that certain section of people in Kashmir were discriminated against. "Abolition of Article 370 from the Indian constitution, that provided special status for Kashmir, was necessary."
Concluding his speech Advani mentioned the role of another spiritual leader, Swami Dayananda Saraswati, who worked tirelessly to promote Hindi, as national language of India. Advani continued reminding his audience, "You are expected to raise the prestige of India in the U.S."
Jayesh Patel, Chandrakant Patel, Adapa Prasad, past-president and H. R. Shah also spoke at the event. Earlier, Sood presented patriotic songs and an inspirational discourse. Dr. Adapa Prasad, paid tributes to the late Sahni and reminisced about his personal association with him.
A four minute video presentation on Advani was also screened.