Overseas friends of Modi?

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NRI boost Narendra Modi with members of the of BJP
NRI boost Narendra Modi with members of the OFBJP

Don’t be surprised if you get a call from the US ahead of the Lok Sabha election. Thousands of phone calls are being made from the US every day as part of the ‘Vote for Modi’ drive. NRIs across the US are set to launch similar campaigns seeking support for other BJP candidates as well. Contact details of Indian voters are being wired overseas for this purpose.

Now, NRIs can simply dial a number to register as Narendra Modi’s supporters. In addition to using social media platforms, an Internet campaign has been initiated at ofbjp272.com. Besides NaMo tea parties, ‘Yoga for Unity’ and ‘Run for Unity’ campaigns have begun in various US cities. These are being organised under the banner of Overseas Friends of BJP (of BJP) — a 4,000-member organisation working to cast the spell of Modi over the nearly 3 million NRIs in the US. Modi will soon be addressing the NRIs via videoconferencing from Gujarat’s capital Gandhinagar.

“The NRIs will play a vital role in the election,” says the of BJP’s US chapter head, Chandrakant Patel. “We are appealing for votes on the phone, and also plan to go to India for campaigning.” The organisation is hiring volunteers, half of whom will fly to India to campaign for the BJP in their native places. “The others will make/send at least 200 calls and SMSes every day from the US,” adds Patel.

A native of Chhattisgarh, Patel comes from a family with close ties to the RSS and was a district president of the BJP before moving to Florida in 1989 to work in the microchip-manufacturing industry. He helps organise programmes for BJP leaders visiting the US and is also in charge of countering propaganda against the party.

The OFBJP’s US chapter was founded by BJP veteran Lal Krishna Advani in 1991. With its members ranging from students to senior citizens, it is the oldest and the largest organisation abroad that serves as a unit of the BJP. The members pay a fee of $1-$100. Campaign funds are raised through programmes like ‘Modi for PM’ or ‘Donate for Modi’ and credited to the BJP’s accounts. Additional funds are collected to cover campaign expenses in the US.

“There is a Modi wave everywhere. How can the NRIs remain unaffected?” asks BJP general secretary Jagat Prakash Nadda. “Our NRI friends are helping us create a favourable atmosphere. I personally believe that the whole country is in favour of Modiji. People have faith in him. Even the NRIs are looking for change now. That is why they have accepted Modiji with an open heart.”

Leaders of the Congress party, however, do not believe that the overseas ‘Modi for PM’ campaign could have a significant impact on the forthcoming election. “Modi’s so-called popularity abroad is part of the BJP’s misleading propaganda,” says Congress general secretary Mukul Wasnik. “The Congress is seeking votes on the basis of its achievements in the past 10 years. We are confident that the mood will turn in our favour when the election approaches.”

This bravado aside, the Congress will do well to consider that it’s been some time since the BJP’s global wing began gearing up for the Lok Sabha election. The campaign has a clear goal: make sure that the BJP touches the magic figure of 272 Lok Sabha seats, which will give it a clear majority in Parliament. Several rounds of meetings with senior BJP leaders have already taken place. Many BJP leaders have been routinely addressing the NRIs through video-conferencing.

With the General Election less than a month away, the political situation in India has become a major concern for the NRIs. Many of them are regularly keeping track of the fast-changing developments in the political scene through television and the Internet. But the jury is still out on who they want to see as the country’s next prime minister. No wonder, the BJP’s supporters among the NRIs are exerting all their energies to make the balance tilt decisively in favour of Modi.

Translated from Hindi by Naushin Rehman

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