Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi was in a poetic mood while addressing 20,000-odd audience during the 2008 World Gujarati Conference on August 30 through a video speech.
"My love for Gujarat is my soul. My love for India is my God and I bow to both my soul and my God," the veteran politician said, reciting a couplet as he concluded his speech at the conference in Edison, New Jersey.
Amid thunderous applause from a 'mini-Gujarat', Modi said Gujarat would be 50 years old in 2010 and he wanted to ask every Gujarati to try to do something for the betterment of society and at the same time aiming to improve themselves.
"I went to a small school in a village where young kids promised me that they would not waste any food. Their effort may seem too minuscule, but it is a large step towards a better society. For every step that one Gujarati takes forward, it is 5.5 crore steps forward for Gujarat,' Modi said.
"I don't care if it benefits the West or the East, the black, the brown or the white, but as long as it benefits humanity, it matters," Modi said. He urged the gathering to join him in celebrating the golden anniversary of Gujarat in 2010 and to join him in the development of India and Gujarat.
The theme of the three-day long conference at the Raritan Center was Chalo Gujarat.
The conference came ahead of the planned January 12-13, 2009, Global Investment Summit in Gandhinagar. The conference seeks to develop investments in Gujarat and foster technology and financial development.
The controversial politician, who has been denied US visa for the third time in a row for alleged human rights violations, said there was an urgent need to fight global terrorism.
"We have to fight it. We must implement the strictest punishment. I have discussed the issue with the prime minister to provide safety and security to all citizens with the new laws that Gujarat has proposed, and I am sure that the prime minister will listen to the five crores of Gujaratis who have requested for these enactments,' he said.
'Laws prohibit ordinary people from turning into criminals, and if you want to stop young citizens from becoming terrorists, you need to enact the strictest laws that prevent this. Countries that are forbearers of human rights have developed anti-terrorism laws after 9/11, and India, too, needs to develop such laws to fight terrorism. Gujarat joins the world in the fight against global terrorism,' Modi said.
The Raritan Center was transformed into a mini-Gujarat with attendees from North America and outside, including India.
Among those who addressed the meeting, included Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel and Sam Pitroda, chairman of the National Knowledge Commission. Singers like Pankaj Udhas and Parthiv Gohil were at hand to entertain the audience. The event was organized by the Association of Indian Americans in North America..
Modi opened his speech with 'Kem cho,' meaning, "How are you". The boisterous audience replied 'majaama'
'I know it ("kem cho") has meaning for all Gujaratis, not only in India, but all over the world, and also how the word is often used to stereotype a Gujarati.'
"At a time when everyone has gathered to discuss the technological, artistic, cultural and social (excellence) of Gujaratis and Gujarat, I am thankful that I was able to speak with everyone even though it was from a distance; I thank the organizers and the audience for being able to participate in the event," he said.
Modi said he was not sure what people wanted to hear from him' nonetheless he went on to paint a bright picture of Gujarat, saying that the state is is now using a model 'Jyotigram' which is based on the people and a sense of shared governance. 'This is the strength of Gujarat,' he said.
Modi said the position that he holds is not a glamorous one or a powerful one or even one which one should be proud of.
"But it is a very responsible position and it's my endeavor is to fulfill my responsibility.
'Just as Mahatma Gandhi suggested that the village government is the basis of Indian democracy, the soul of India is the village and Gujarat is on its way of developing a model," he said.
"All the villages of Gujarat are now connected via broadband connectivity and this may be a first, not only in India or Asia, but also in the world,' he claimed.
"In the 60s and 70s, the thrust was to gain education in commerce so that one could get a job in the banking sector or in some commercial firm. But today, 55,000 students pursue education in engineering," the chief minister said.
Touting Gujarat as the first state to develop a 'knowledge-based society', Modi said Gujarat was also looking at developing skills via satellite education
'Skills should not only impart the knowledge, but also train the student to be able to communicate with confidence with the world. The use of English is needed but it should not replace Gujarati and education should not be without English or only in English,' Modi said.