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Kalpana, Hindu rate of growth and the PBD

January 10, 2004 11:55 IST

The Pravasi Bharatiya fete is fast turning out to be an exclusive Bharatiya Janata Party affair. It's still a mystery if the Congress has kept out or is being kept out of the three-day NRI-PIO jamboree. At the inauguration on Friday, the Congressmen were conspicuous by their absence and the BJP and its National Democratic Alliance friends were present in strength. BJP chief Venkaiah Naidu, Haryana Chief Minister Om Prakash Chautala, Divestment Minister Arun Shourie, Minister of State for External Affairs Vinod Khanna and Civil Aviation Minister Rajeev Pratap Rudy were some of the faces one could make out from the press enclosure, which was the farthest from the dais.

She was not there to accept the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman puraskar, but the crowd gave her a standing ovation. US astronaut Kalpana Chawla was killed in February last year during NASA's space shuttle Columbia's re-entry into earth after a 16-day space mission. The award was accepted by Chawla's husband, Jean Pierre Harrison, who flew in specially for the award ceremony. The pony-tailed Harrison was crowded wherever he went and everyone told him how proud India and the Indians the world-over were of Kalpana.

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Another person who finds it impossible to escape attention is the Lord Meghnad Desai. He is a world-renowned economist instantly recognisable by his hairstyle, which would have made him look like a rock star if not for his small, portly frame. But his looks are not even half the story told about this amazing personality. When Lord Meghnad Desai speaks, the world listens. Especially if is he talking about the 'Hindu rate of growth.'

Several polls have indicated that Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee's popularity is soaring. Now his poetry too has begun to inspire others. The melodious song that Kavita Krishnamoorthy rendered at the inauguration ceremony was penned by L M Singhvi, Member of Parliament and chairman, organising committee, second Pravasi Bharatiya Divas.  Perhaps to make sure nobody missed the point, Singhvi ended his own address by repeating the lines. Both Vajpayee and his deputy L K Advani clapped and cheered Singhvi. Advani was seen congratulating Singhvi when he returned to his chair. The poet didn't stop smiling.

But Sir V S Naipaul, Nobel Laureate and novelist, whose name figured in the list of the Diaspora panellists, did not turn up. Though the organisers refused to give reasons for his absence, a friend of Naipaul said he could not make it because of disagreements over plane tickets and staying arrangements. He is now expected to visit Delhi sometime in February in connection with the World Book Fair as its chief guest.

Another prominent person who failed to turn up was the famous West Indian cricketer Rohan Kanhai. He was among 100 persons originally listed for the Pravasi Bharatiya awards. But his name was missing when the final 12 were announced. Perhaps this upset the cricketer and he decided against coming to India and attending the function.

Pankaj Upadhyaya and Onkar Singh in Delhi