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September 10, 2000
I will always be a swayamsevak: PM
Amberish K Diwanji in Staten Island
Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee declared before a gathering of the Indian community, assorted sants and sadhus, representatives of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America, Overseas Friends of the BJP, and similar groups that whether he remained prime minister or not, he would "always remain a swayamsevak," a member of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh.
Speaking extempore at Staten Island, New York, the prime minister said he had not come to address the gathering as a prime minister but as the foremost sevak.
"I may or may not be prime minister tomorrow – Delhi has many such former prime ministers – but no one take away my right to be a swayamsevak," the prime minister thundered to the crowd estimated at about 4,500 people.
And when asked by one of the many sadhus gathered at the function on why his government had not build the Ram temple at Ayodhya, the prime minister replied, "Despite leading a government with a minority stake, we have done a lot. The people of India have not given us a majority. If they give us a two-thirds majority, then we will make an India of your dreams!" and the crowd went delirious with delight.
Continuing on his earlier theme, he praised the Indian community for their efforts that had made Indians so well known across the world. "Before, it was difficult for us to get visas, but today countries vie with each other to issue visas to Indians.And this is due to the efforts of you people gathered here, who have in the bargain not only helped yourself and your adopted country – the USA – but also your motherland, India," the prime minister stated.
Praising the information technology generation, he said they had come and settled in the US and thanks to them India was today known all over the world.
The Staten Island event was organised by the Indian American Community, an umbrella set-up comprising the VHP of America, the Overseas Friends of the BJP, the American Association of Physicians of Indian Origin, and other outfits.
The prime minister, who arrived in a massive cavalcade, started slowly saying he had come to New York to attend the United Nations Millennium Summit. He said this year, for the first time, along with politicians "or shall I say leaving aside politicians" the UN held an assembly of religious leaders, which is linked to the spiritual emotion of man.
The world and India, he said, were going through challenging times, and "there is the fear that along with doing away with the bad things of the past, we may also do away with the good things."
"Thus, as future generations prepare for the new world, it is imperative that we keep with us the good things, the peaceful aspects of our present world. In the turmoil all around us, we cannot see the road ahead. That is why on every step, we must mark the road, check the road, and above all, we have to let the people know of the road we are taking," Vajpayee said.
People, the prime minister added, may differ about the road to be taken as the world moves into the next millennium and century. "But we know that we want to move from darkness to light and from slavery to freedom," he stated.
Extolling India, Vajpayee said one of the country's virtues was that it allowed different roads to be taken to the same destination.
Recalling how much change and transition had occurred in India, he told the gathering, "I remember an India where there was not enough grain to feed our people and ships would be docked on our ports bringing us grain. We were dependent on others but today our farmers and scientists have changed everything. Now we have excess grain and are willing to sell it anywhere in the world, but since our grain is more expensive due to the higher price we pay our farmer, we don't have any buyers," he said.
The prime minister said Indians saw the entire humanity as a single entity. "But some people consider our worldview as a weakness and seek to create trouble. We have to change that, and we have changed it. We have increased the security of India. And those who criticised us for the Pokhran blasts now don't even talk about it," said Vajpayee, to another round of applause.
He reiterated the point raised in his earlier speeches, including his statements to the Millennium Summit, that India went nuclear only because the world did not heed India's call for universal nuclear disarmament. He again offered to disarm, if the world did so.
"Western philosophers have often said that for mankind's progress, look towards India. And today we are progressing and in the new era ahead, India's contribution is being recognised for its worth," he stated.
The prime minister emphasised that it is important to see life in its totality and not in parts. "If we see life as a whole, then we make a much better future for mankind," he declared.
rediff.com has assigned Associate Editors Amberish K Diwanji and Savera R Someshwar to cover Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's visit to the United States. Don't forget to log into rediff.com for news of this historic visit as it happens!
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