New Delhi, Aug. 13: Narendra Modi has been invited by politicians from Britain’s two principal parties to speak at the House of Commons.
Barry Gardiner, a Labour MP, last week sent a missive to the Gujarat chief minister, inviting him to speak on “The Future of Modern India”.
Gardiner, who represents Brent North in the UK Parliament’s lower House, was quoted by a news agency as describing Modi as a “politician who cannot be ignored” and a “potential Prime Minister”.
“The invitation is a culmination of several years of engagement between senior representatives of the Labour Party and Modi. I am sure people in the UK, and indeed the international community, would be very interested to meet and hear what Modi has to say first hand. He is a politician who cannot be ignored. I believe it is in Britain’s best interests that we engage with him as both the chief minister of Gujarat and also potential Prime Minister,” the lawmaker said.
Gardiner is part of Labour’s Friends of India outfit that took the initiative to ask Modi over.
Another MP, Stephen Pound, who used to head Labour’s Friends of India, said: “I, like many colleagues within the Labour Party, look forward to welcoming chief minister Modi to the UK. I last had the pleasure of meeting him in Gujarat in 2009. His return visit to the UK is long overdue.”
The Conservatives’ Friends of India too sent a separate invite to Modi around the same time that Labour did.
Sailesh Vara, the Tory MP from North West Cambridgeshire, was quoted as expressing a wish to “finally meet” Modi in the invite.
Lord Gulam Noon, a prominent Labour peer of Indian origin and a fierce Modi critic in the past, welcomed the initiative and said: “India’s 1.2 billion people want and deserve a change. Modi is someone who has all the talent to lead the world’s largest democracy.”
A source in the chief minister’s secretariat confirmed receiving the invites and said while Modi was “grateful” for them, he had no immediate proposal to visit the UK.
The UK-Modi equation got frosty after the 2002 communal pogrom in Gujarat. Britain had a specific provocation to cool off towards him because two of its nationals from Gujarat were killed in the mob attacks.
While Britain did not formally ban Modi’s entry into the country, it made it clear he was unwanted.
In October 2012, when the buzz around Modi’s projection as the BJP’s Prime Minister candidate grew louder, Britain decided to thaw the freeze.