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NRIs join electoral campaign in Gujarat
Shambhu Sahu | December 02, 2007 15:32 IST
A large number of Gujarati Non-Resident Indians have landed in their native state to lend support to political parties they are backing in the upcoming assembly election, due on December 11 and 16.
Many are supporters of incumbent Narendra Modi [Images], who feel the state has developed under the stewardship of the BJP leader. Opposing them are a considerable number of Congress supporters, who say Modi has divided the state.
Although they cannot vote in the state assembly polls, the NRIs who have come from places like the UK and US are pumping in huge amounts of money in campaigning, besides trying to woo voters for the party of their choice.
"Though I can't vote, still I would like to see to it that the right people are voted to power. Even if I can't vote I would like to make sure that other 100 people at least go and vote. It's very important," says 42-year-old Rajen Patel from London [Images], an ardent supporter of Modi.
Patel, who claims he campaigned for former US vice president Al Gore [Images] when he was in the presidential race, says about 100 like-minded NRIs in the UK have decided to come to Gujarat to support Modi as they believe he is ushering in growth and development.
"We would like to invest in Gujarat as things have improved a lot here. There is less of corruption now and action is taken on complaints made even over phones," he says.
Rejecting the claims of development under Modi's government are Congress supporters, who have also come together based on their political affiliation.
"What development are they talking about? Everything is hogwash. No state can develop where people are divided. And that's what BJP has done here," says Deepak Amin, who has come all the way from Seattle (US) to support Congress.
"To be number one you have to be united first. When you talk about Hindu rashtra, you ignore the rest of the people in the country. What about them?" Amin laments.
He says he is in touch with at least 15 other like-minded NRIs from various countries.
"We have held several rounds of meetings in Seattle, New York, New Jersey etc to discuss our agenda before coming to India. We will be reaching out to people to pass on our message," Amin says.
He said his 'group' was opposed to the way BJP is bragging about development in Gujarat, adding, "It's just like their 'India Shining' campaign." But the Modi camp would like to differ. "There's discipline, peace and harmony now unlike earlier," says Patel.
On his group's strategy, Patel says, "We will place ourselves in different regions of the state. Like five-six people in Vadodara, 10 in Ahmedabad and four in Surat, while one of us will be travelling to meet people and help the party in the electoral process."
He claims Modi has many fans in the UK and US who want to know what can they do to help their state. "What attracts us over there is that Modi is not competing with Mumbai, New Delhi, Hyderabad, but with China, America, Canada [Images]."
"This vision attracts us like magnet," he says.
Meanwhile, there are some NRIs who say they have not come back to Gujarat because of their loyalty to any particular party but because they wanted development for their native state.
"It may not necessarily be political but we are happy with the progress that our state has made in last 5-6 years. We believe that 45 per cent of the dream has been achieved and lot is to be done," says Shambhubhai Patel, a businessman based in Paris.
"We are backing industrial development in the state as only it can help better the social structure and help lives of the poor in the state."
He says all other ways of development have failed in India in the last 50 years and only the "European route, where industrial development leads to betterment of society at large, can help the state. So we want more millionaires from the state".
Another NRI, Barindra Patel says, "We are very pleased with the progress of state under Modi's leadership, and don't want it to go to waste. So we wish to help him in whichever way possible."
Maintaining that the NRI community diligently keeps track of the events in Gujarat and India, Patel says many Indians living abroad don't mind coming back to the country now.
"I have met all other state CMs, but no one has been as non-corrupt as he (Modi) is. And somehow this man appeals to me. I don't care what others says," avers Surendra Patel, a London-based businessman.