The storm of opposition is growing against the invitation to Britain of right-wing Indian politician Narendra Modi. There's to be a protest on Monday outside the surgery of Labour MP Barry Gardiner, who has invited Modi to speak in the Commons on "The Future of India".
Modi is chief minister of the Indian state of Gujarat, where as many as 2,000 people may have been killed in 2002 in pogroms against the Muslim minority. His bid for premiership of India at the head of the BJP, a party combining right-wing businessmen with fascist thugs
There are fears Modi's trips abroad to meet supporters and Western politicians will be used not only to raise campaign funds but to shine up his "respectable" image, suggesting foreign governments are prepared to forget the massacres in Gujarat and let investments come rolling in.
But opposition is growing. At Westminster, Labour MP Mike Wood MP has been joined by Respect's George Galloway in an Early Day Motion against Modi's visit
to the UK. Reminding MPs and the government of the 2002 slaughter that led to a ban on Modi entering the UK, the motion calls for the ban to be reinstated. (see full text below).
Wood, the MP for Batley and Spen, has also written to fellow Labour MP Barry Gardiner (Brent North) to complain that Labour Friends of India, which Gardiner chairs, were not consulted about the invitation to Modi
Brent Trades Union Council has also written to Gardiner, and is backing a protest against the Modi visit.
Among British Asians of all backgrounds who oppose a Modi visit is Turner prize-winning artist Anish Kapoor who was quoted in the London Evening Standard,
on Monday, September 2, calling on the Government to block (Modi) from speaking in parliament..."I join fellow citizens who abhor discrimination and intolerance...I call on David Cameron and Ed Miliband to provide ethical leadership and urge those responsible for the invitation to rescind it immediately"'
Those in the West singing Modi's praises like to focus on his success on fetching foreign investment and the supposed prosperity and technology it brings, but recent reports from Gujarat concerning corruption and child poverty indicate how little any of that wealth has trickled down. Politically, Narendra Modi and his campaign managers seem to be turning away from mere economics to the theme for which his wing, at least, of the BJP is notorious.
MUMBAI: Narendra Modi
declaring "I am a Hindu Nationalist" has suddenly become one of the
most ubiquitous ad campaigns in Mumbai, hogging space in prominent and
highly prized outdoor locations across the city and stoking speculation
that the Gujarat CM's upcoming election campaign may emphasise so-called
The multi-lingual advertising drive features
images of Modi, who is expected to be BJP's contender for the post of
prime minister in the next parliamentary elections, alongside various
statements he made during a recent, highly publicised interview with
Reuters.The campaign is the brainchild of Ashish Shelar, the head of BJP's Mumbai unit. Local BJP
leaders told ET there is no wider game plan behind the campaign. The
advertising, they claim, is simply an attempt to reflect on a debate
that is playing out in the media. Conveniently, it also helps the party
get noticed at a time the state assembly is in session.
leaders in Delhi claim the Mumbai hoardings are not meant to be a
precursor to a nationwide campaign. Shrikant Sharma, in charge of BJP's
national media cell, says the state unit is attempting to highlight
Modi's 'talking points'. "If state units feel they must acknowledge some
of his talking points, they will do so," he says.
Senior party general secretary Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi
adds that while supporters and state leaders are free to post hoardings
and posters, the catchline mentioned is not part of any authorised
campaign. "The theme of the campaign is still good governance, and we
are designing our campaign to reflect that," he says.
everyone accepts this explanation. To many who have seen the hoardings,
they signal the start of BJP's poll campaign for the 2014 elections. The
line itself is evocative of the 'Garv se kaho hum Hindu hain' (Say you
are a Hindu with pride) slogan coined during the Ramjanmabhoomi-Babri
Masjid movement of the early 1990s. Party leaders admit there is likely
to be merchandise with slogans like 'Do you want your country
Modi-fied?' on T-shirts, caps and key chains, all coloured in a saffron
hue. In Karnataka, some of this merchandise is already up for sale.
According to KV Sridhar, chief creative officer at Leo Burnett,
the agency that created the 'Aam aadmi ko kya mila' campaign that is
credited with having brought the UPA to power in 2004, "Narendra Modi is
making a transition from being seen as a growth agent to being
considered primarily a Hindu nationalist. The three statements he has
made - about puppies (in reference to the Gujarat riots of 2002), being a
Hindu nationalist and that Congress
is wearing the burqa of secularism - are not coincidental. He's
appealing to the masses, and that is the only mass appeal platform the
"We tell our brands if you can't correct your
weakness, play on your strength. BJP's weakness is secularism and its
strength Hindutva. They have chosen the one plank Congress cannot attack
them on. India may have changed a lot, but it is still a predominantly
Hindu country," believes Sridhar.
But as Modi pauses his visit to sort out his party, he has continued to enjoy support from Barry Gardiner who in interviews rounded angrily on the BNP leader's Indian critics.
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