Several members and supporters of the Overseas Friends of BJP (UK) converged on the century-old Indian Gymkhana in west London on Thursday to celebrate the election victory, while many in the 1.5 million-strong Indian community closely followed the results from early morning.
Music, sweets and slogans in support of Prime Minister Narendra Modi were raised as the supporters led by Kuldip Singh Shekhawat, president of OFBJP (UK) recalled their role in BJP’s election campaign.
From holding car rallies with Modi’s image in various towns across the UK, to making hundreds of thousands of calls from a call centre in London to friends and family members in India, the role of UK-based supporters included 2,000 volunteers travelling to India at their own expense to help in the campaign.
Shekhawat, who was part of several campaign events in India, said: “The volunteers spent their own money to help in the campaign mainly in constituencies in Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Kerala”.
“From homes and a call centre, our people made a large number of calls under the ‘ek call desh ke nam’ programme. Getting a call from London, asking people to support Modi, made a difference to many, and added to the perception of Modi’s ‘jalwa’ (reputation) abroad”.
Virendra Sharma, senior Labour MP and chair of the all-party parliamentary group on India, said India-UK relations can only grow further under Modi, since he understood the importance of the diaspora and has already made two visits to London as prime minister.
Sharma said: “The election result is the victory of the Indian voter. There was a lack of leadership in the opposition. There was no single identifiable consensus leader among the opposition parties, neither was there a common agenda”.
“Besides, a major factor is the success of Modi’s communication strategy – through social media, radio, apps – to convey to the common man that he is an accessible prime minister, never mind the reality. His travels abroad also had positive impact on people’s minds.”
London-based industrialist Swaraj Paul, who was reputed to be close to former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, hailed the election results, adding that the scale of the election showed the common man’s commitment to democracy that made Indians abroad proud.
The considerable support for BJP in the Indian community is aided by the presence in the UK of the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), which has been functioning since 1966.
The structure, principles and activities of HSS are similar to those of the RSS, whose head, Mohan Bhagwat, attended a ‘mahashibir’ in August 2016 to mark 50 years of its existence.
Many UK-based supporters of the BJP were active in campaigning for the 2014 elections, including 500 volunteers who travelled to India. They organised several events in the UK, including ‘Chai pe Charcha with Namo’ in Harrow.
The considerable support for the BJP and Modi in the UK was reflected in the packed audience at the Wembley Stadium during the prime minister’s visit in November 2015, one of the largest such meetings addressed outside India.
May 23, 2019 19:45 IST
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