The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Overseas BJP overhaul plan

New Delhi, Jan. 9: BJP president M. Venkaiah Naidu said he would shortly dissolve the Overseas Friends of the BJP and reconstitute its various units.

Speaking informally to the press, Naidu said he would appoint the president and other functionaries of the US and the UK chapters, which the BJP considered as the main ones, and monitor their work closely to “ensure better coordination” and keep tabs on what is happening abroad.

So far, the BJP has no control over its overseas units. It maintains a ritualistic connection in the form of annual get-togethers abroad or in India. Members of the Overseas Friends of the BJP have their own hotline to the RSS and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad because of the help it gave to the Ram Janmabhoomi movement.

The Overseas Friends contributed in a big way in projecting the BJP’s ideology and policies and “correcting” the “misconceptions” that arose about Hindutva after the Babri Masjid was demolished.

When the BJP was in Opposition, its overseas friends ensured that its senior leaders, including Atal Bihari Vajpayee and L.K. Advani, got prime time on leading TV news channels when they visited the US and the UK to air their viewpoints — something Congressmen were not successful at even when they were in power.

But despite their best efforts, the BJP’s grouse was it continued to be referred as a “right-wing, Hindu fundamentalist” party.

Asked if one of the ideas behind the overseas revamp was to see that the units worked harder to get better publicity for the BJP, Naidu said: “No, on that point they are fine and do their job well.”

The US Overseas Friends got on the wrong side of the RSS because of the reported squabbling among its top functionaries over whatever largesse the Centre distributed.

RSS general secretary Madan Das Devi reportedly ordered the overseas chapter to be disbanded during an annual parivar meeting in Pennsylvania in mid-December.

The appointment of NRI Bhishma Agnihotri as India’s ambassador at large for NRIs and PIOs had reportedly become a cause of heartburn because he allegedly toted up a huge bill from his jaunts, which were passed off as perks from the external affairs ministry.

Other important NRI figures like Mukund Modi, the founding president of the Overseas Friends and a friend of Vajpayee, and Shekhar Tiwari of its Washington chapter refused to attend the Pravasi conference in protest.

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