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Modi rallies faithful in London
Shyam Bhatia in London | August 18, 2003 14:08 IST
Last Updated: August 18, 2003 14:09 IST
Narendra Modi has delivered the opening shot of his prime ministerial campaign.
At least that was the impression he left in the minds of his wealthy supporters who gathered in their thousands at London's Wembley Conference Centre to listen to the Gujarat chief minister deliver a speech worthy of Mark Anthony.
Undeterred by placards denouncing him as a 'murderer', 'butcher' and the 'Idi Amin of Gujarat', Modi focused his attention instead on those London Gujaratis who prefer to see him as the 'Tiger of Gujarat' and the 'Mover of mountains and rivers'.
The ostensible purpose of Modi's visit to London and Switzerland is to rally support for his 'Vibrant Gujarat' initiative, which will culminate in a global investors' meeting next month in Ahmedabad, where he expects to attract representatives of Fortune 500 companies.
But his August 17 night speech left little doubt that his additional agenda is to rally his overseas storm troopers for the day he moves on to greater things.
"You are all the real friends of Gujarat and I have come to reciprocate that loyalty," Modi told his adoring audience. "We have slept in the street of death and today I have come to repay a debt of friendship to those who helped us in our hour of need."
Describing Gujarat as India's most progressive and dynamic state, Modi predicted annual economic growth rates of 10.2 per cent that would be the wonder of the world.
As supporters in the audience shouted "Chhote Sardar" (comparison with the Sardar Vallabhai Patel is one of the trademark references of Modi supporters), the chief minister embarked on a series of catchy slogans that led to round after round of rapturous applause.
"IT is not information technology," Modi said. "It is India today. BT is not biotechnology, it is Bharat Today. IT and IT equals IT. That means information technology and Indian talent is India tomorrow."
Unlike other chief ministers, Modi even ventured into the higher realms of foreign policy by drawing attention to his meetings with Robin Raphael, the former US assistant secretary of state who also served at the US embassy in New Delhi.
"In 1992, I met Robin Raphael and warned her about the dangers of international terrorism, but she said we had a problem with law and order," Modi said.
"One year later, after a bomb was discovered at the International Trade Centre, she met me again and this time it was her turn to lecture me on the dangers of international terrorism."
Unimpressed by his grasp of international issues, Modi's critics say they will try and orchestrate his arrest on August 19 when they argue a public interest case before a London magistrate.
It may not lead to the detention of Narendra Modi on British territory, but for those who see the Gujarat Chief Minister as an unreformed Hindu communalist, any publicity they attract is another blow for a worthwhile cause.
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