Gadkari In London
British seldom depart conventions. But they did for the BJP President Nitin Gadkari. The Foreign Secretary who would normally meet his counterparts took time off from his hectic schedule in Parliament in the midst of the phone-hacking scandal and on a day when Pakistan Prime Minister Syed Raza Gilani was in town.
William Hague received the BJP President at the Whitehall Foreign Office. And not that they exchanged views on the whole gamut of Indo-British relations and matters of common concerns. He briefed Gadkari as well on his meeting with Gilani earlier in the day. That made the BJP President the first Indian contact to get the briefing that the Cameron government has asked Pakistani leadership to dismantle all terror establishments in the country taking the opportunity of the killing of Osama bin Laden near Islamabad.
A breakfast meeting with captains of British Industry, a luncheon with London Chamber of Commerce, dinner at Asia House, Indo-British All Party Parliamentary Group and the Indo-European Business Forum meeting in the House of Commons and lunch with Speaker Baroness Hymen of the House of Lords and a large number of Lords and MPs. All these were exceptions for head of a political party who hardly enjoys any protocol. Equally unconventional were his interactive session with the Oxford University students on climate change and a meeting at the UKYCC on Indo-British economic cooperation.
It wasn’t a coincidence that Mr Gadkari could meet Lord Paul, Lord Karan Billimoria, Lord Graville Janner, Lord Dholakia, Lord Lumba, Lord Ghulam Noon, Lord Bhiku Parekh, Lord Popat, Baroness Flather, Baroness Sandy Verma (all members of the House of Lords) and Virendra Sharma, Barry Gardiner, Steven Pounds, Bob Blackmen, Dr. Hywel Francis, Keith Vaz and Preeti Patel (all members of the House of Commons), Kanwaljit Singh Bakshi (MP from New Zealand) in one day at the British Parliament.
All high-profile meetings lined up for intense and at times gruelling interactions were th e tests of the next gen BJP President’s abilities to showcase his party’s policies and programmes, market the BJP-ruled states as vibrant, transparent, secured and rewarding investment destinations and also of his potential to steer the main opposition to victory in the 2014 general elections.
Mr Gadkari made full use of the opportunity to touch base with all key sections of the British society and opinion makers and to dispel all misconceived and misplaced notions about the BJP as a fundamentalist Hindu party. Essentially what people wanted to know from him was how the BJP was different from the Congress given that the ruling party was floundering on all fronts.
Mr Gadkari took a more softer, internationalist approach, where key themes like global warming, poverty eradication, and collaboration between UK and India in third countries really set him and the BJP apart from others as a progressive and thoughtful leader. Nitin Gadkari came out extremely well at all platforms and spoke eloquently on inclusive, speedy, and sustainable development more about the world as a global village.
He took the full centre stage by focusing on good governance and sustainable development, reminding the British of the development-centric nature of the Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s NDA government, and the key differentiators between BJP-ruled and Congress/regional parties-ruled states. He highlighted the BJP-ruled states in good measure stating a BJP run state is a development-oriented state.
One thing that the British government, the politicians and the country’s influential opinion-makers did during Mr Gadkari’s visit was to clearly indicate that they have tremendous respect for the BJP as the main opposition party which is ruling in nine prominent Indian states and is the party in waiting at the centre. They all acknowledged BJP President’s qualities and his potential to lead the party to form the next government at the centre.
Where the opportunity arose, former Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje and BJP Women’s Wing President Smriti Irani, MP, highlighted the progressive nature of the BJP vis a vis women in key positions. Supplementing Gadkari’s presentations were Rajesh Shah, heading various BJP cells on policy formulations and Vijay Jolly and Amit Thaker, convener & co-convener respectively of the Overseas Friends of BJP.
Vasundhara laid emphasis on the problems of the people of Indian origin in the UK and the foundation laid by the Vajpayee government in introducing reforms in some key areas and Smriti Irani underscored the policies of the BJP-ruled states for women empowerment in rural and backward areas.
A significant hallmark of the BJP President’s highly successful six-day visit was the discerning realisation in Britain that the balance of power these days lies with India which has the markets and that the western nations would like to have a piece of the emerging South Asian giant’s economic boom where the GDP is set to grow at 10 per cent next year.
The most lucid and cogent message the BJP President carried home after his highly productive and intense interactions with a cross section of the British society, including prominent NRI businessmen, was that Britain and its entrepreneurs were keen to build a special relationship with the BJP-ruled states in India which offer a growing market for British companies.
A man with proven track record in public-private partnership and strong protagonist of e-governance and e-tendering, Gadkari showcased the good governance in BJP-ruled states and batted for them inviting British investors to the states where his party is in power for joint ventures in areas of R&D, Science and Technology, advanced manufacturing, green technologies, non-conventional energy, skilled manpower development and education on public-private partnership basis and promised them a favourable investment climate, prompt, corruption-free and transparent decision-making regime and adequate security.
The BJP President’s visit, primarily at the invitation of the UK unit of the Overseas Friends of BJP to address their first-ever political convention in London, turned out to be a high-profile event marked by a series of meetings with British trade and industry and socio-political outfits of the Indian Diaspora. He received a rousing welcome at the Swaminarayan Temple, The Southall Gurudwara and the Sanatan Dharma Temple.
William Hague during his talks with Gadkari invited Indian companies to explore the tremendous investment potential in Britain and other European Union countries and agreed to intensify efforts to prepare favourable ground for them including exchange of informations in the field of green technologies and non-conventional energy sources like solar power, wind energy, bio-energy-bio-fuels etc. Hague told Gadkari that Britain and the European Union countries have the expertise and technologies in these fields and would be willing to share with India.
Gadkari’s meeting with William Hague was positive, cordial and friendly where the British Foreign Secretary showed complete understanding of the BJP President’s approach on his party’s desire to have tension-free relations with all the Indian neighbours, particularly with Pakistan provided Islamabad terminated its proxy-war and export of terror into India from across the order. The BJP President brought home the point that his party desired that both India and Pakistan should concentrate their resources on poverty alleviation programmes and on ameliorating the cause of the downtrodden in their respective countries.
By Ashok Tandon from London