|The diplomats at the rally in New Delhi. Picture by Prem Singh
New Delhi, Sept. 29: But for the US and the UK, Narendra Modi’s cup might have brimmeth over.
Among the youths, men and women who thronged to hear Modi speak at his party’s Vikas rally today were representatives from 34 missions, possibly the first time envoys and officials from so many nations had turned up for a political rally.
The US, which continues to treat Modi as a persona non grata over allegations of human rights violations during the 2002 Gujarat riots, did not send any representative. Nor did the British high commission. Both said their envoys were abroad.
Among those present were the envoys from Spain, Taiwan, Congo and Kyrgyzstan, while countries like Japan, Germany, Russia, Sweden, Mali, South Africa, Mexico, Peru, Portugal, Bangladesh, Ethiopia and Afghanistan sent mission officials.
Sources in the BJP, which had invited the officials, said the idea was to hold up “brand Modi globally”. “We wanted diplomats to have a first-hand experience of how the masses respond to Modi…. So we had invited 36 foreign missions… representatives of 34 came,” Vijay Jolly, convener of the BJP’s overseas cell, told The Telegraph. Pakistan was not invited.
When approached by this paper, some of the diplomats said they wouldn’t like to comment on the country’s internal issues.
The BJP’s first serious diplomatic outreach began in 1994-95 when it fancied itself as being within striking distance of power and felt it had to recast its post-Babri demolition image globally.
The late Pramod Mahajan, then a general secretary and strategist, started meeting envoys to hardsell the BJP as a party in the mould of the West’s right-of-Centre entities — pro-economic liberalisation and foreign investments, not “irrationally religious or fundamentalist” but deeply nationalist.
In 1995, diplomats were invited to the BJP’s national council in Mumbai. That was when L.K. Advani declared Atal Bihari Vajpayee as the prime ministerial candidate for the 1996 elections.
Modi embarked on his global initiatives right after 2002 to redeem his image and that of Gujarat after the riots.