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America awaits Mayavati encounter

Washington, May 23: Americans, used to the erudition of Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan, the proud arrogance of Indira Gandhi and the resolute calm of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, will have what promises to be a memorable encounter of a different kind with an Indian leader next month.

Mayavati, the volatile and unpredictable chief minister of Uttar Pradesh, is visiting the US shortly.

The Bahujan Samajwadi Party leader, whose rags-to-power story is certain to captivate the US media during her tour, will be the star attraction at the 28th annual meeting of the US-India Business Council in New York on June 2.

She will share the forum with another chief minister who will be a perfect foil for Mayavati: “Raja” Digvijay Singh of Madhya Pradesh.

The council’s annual meeting is a crucial networking and substantive event for businessmen here with an interest in India. Celebrity attendance from India is booked for the meeting at least a year in advance.

The chief minister of Punjab, Amarinder Singh, has already been invited as the keynote speaker for the council’s annual meeting in the summer of 2004.

Mayavati’s participation has already generated such hype in American business circles that she will be featured in the very first event of the one-day conference.

The organisers have scheduled a special “networking breakfast” for American CEOs on June 2 at which Mayavati will be the chief guest.

She will also be the “special guest” at an evening reception being planned by the organisers at the conclusion of the conference.

Mayavati will also “greet” the delegates at the inaugural session along with A.C. Muthiah, president of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (Ficci) and possibly Congressman Joseph Crowley, co-chair of the India Caucus on Capitol Hill.

Other than the chief minister of Madhya Pradesh, the conference will hear Robert Blackwill, the outgoing US envoy to India, his counterpart here, Lalit Mansingh, Kenneth Juster, the under-secretary in the US department of commerce who is streamlining high-technology exports to India, and Amit Mitra, Ficci’s secretary general.

Businessmen here are heartened that the initiative for Mayavati’s participation in the council event came from the chief minister herself.

It is understood that Mayavati told some Americans interested in doing business in India that she would like to project Uttar Pradesh’s potential and opportunities at the June 2 conference.

This was immediately welcomed by the council, which has long recognised the state’s potential, but has been besieged by initiatives from states more active in economic reform and globalisation.

If all goes well, Mayavati’s US visit may become a turning point in attracting foreigners to Uttar Pradesh, quite unlike Laloo Prasad Yadav’s visits abroad a few years ago to attract overseas investment to Bihar.

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