The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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On video, Modi goes mild

Gandhinagar, March 21: Trademark arrogance missing and face not betraying any signs of rancour, Narendra Modi today came across as almost too large-hearted as words of praise for the US flowed over satellite to his Gujarati friends overseas.

'India and the US are the two largest democracies of the world. They are tied together by many common traditions and beliefs,' he said cheerfully, addressing the Indian-American crowd at Madison Square Garden in New York as though the visa refusal row had not happened.

Studiously avoiding any America-bashing during the teleconference and being all praises for Indo-US friendship instead, he appeared to be proving a point as he refused to retaliate to the visa snub.

'I have no grievance against the US or the people of that country over the visa denial' I have no reaction, I believe only in action,' Modi, dressed in an orange kurta, said.

'I take inspiration from Gandhiji and believe in Gandhian methods to fight injustice.'

But the chief minister insisted his 'brothers and sisters' in faraway US should ensure that 'opinion about your motherland is not formed on the basis of propaganda and the contention of a handful of vested interests'. There should be verification of facts, he said.

Going on to liberally tug at the heartstrings of the 5,000-strong community, he said the reason Indo-US friendship was flourishing was the Gujarati diaspora in that country.

Whether he was in New York or not, 'my heart is there at your function', Modi said. 'Gujarat remains yours as it ever was.'

Dubbing Gujarat the 'growth engine of India', he said the state represented the 'very best' of India and was among 'the most progressive and promising'.

'I will see to it that Gujarat becomes a global destination where some day Americans will line up for visa.'

Modi said the best way an overseas Gujarati could contribute to his motherland was by motivating at least five families to visit India. If 5 lakh Gujaratis motivated 25 lakh families, the tourism industry would get a big boost, he said.

Stirring national pride as he fielded a query on brain drain, he said: 'Let Indian brain reach every nook and corner of the world. There is no dearth of brain in India.'

The only occasion Modi was a trifle critical about the US was when he said it was given to treating military dictators rather too well.

The teleconference began in the hall of the chief minister's official residence at 5 am. Since 3 am, Modi's additional principal secretary A.K. Sharma and IT secretary J.N. Singh were seen busily instructing technicians to set up a link that would not crash midway.

Senior cabinet ministers Anandiben Patel, Ashok Bhatt, Bhupendra Chudasama and Kaushik Patel were also present.

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