By Vera Samuel Anyagafu
As the first phase of April 11 election draws near, programmes to reinforce the Indian ruling party, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP’s), efforts to retain power were held on Sunday in several locations outside India.
Sanjay Srivastava, President, Overseas Friends of Bharatiya Janata Party (OFBJP), Nigeria chapter, told Independent in Lagos at the weekend that as part of the programme, participants converged in the iconic Sydney Opera House, located in the bay of Sydney Harbour, Australia, to discuss the need to support the Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi, as he leads the BJP into April general elections.
Srivastava noted that “As was done in the run-up to the 2014 general elections, which saw BJP emerge victorious with 31 percent vote share, OFBJP is anchoring campaigns to support Modi and the BJP, which has chapters in 40 countries.
“Non-Resident Indians (NRIs), who support the BJP, will also help the party to campaign both in India and the countries in which they reside.”
Also, Vijay Chauthaiwale, in-charge of the BJP’s Foreign Affairs Department, of which the OFBJP is a part, in a statement, said: “The difference between 2014 and now is that earlier, these programmes were conducted extempore, and now, it is more systematic since we have strengthened our support system in over 30 countries. The PM’s interactions with the Diaspora itself has given the exercise a fresh impetus.”
“The BJP is not the only party relying on Indians in the Diaspora to create a favourable atmosphere for it, parties such as Congress, Shiromani Akali Dal and Aam Admi Party also bank on the NRIs pool for raising money and manpower to strengthen campaigns,” Chauthaiwale said.
The BJP is counting on supporters in countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, Denmark, Malaysia and across the Gulf region, the statement said, adding that NRIs also reach out to friends and families in India to help in fund raising.
The weekend event’s template followed in most of the countries is the same – featuring discussions, cultural programmes and the now, ubiquitous part of the BJP’s election campaign – the “chai pe charchas” (discussions over tea) that was popularized by Modi in the 2014 elections campaign.
Jay Shah, an information technology (IT) professional, who is part of the OFBJP in Australia, said at least three programmes would be organised in Australia to muster support for Modi and his policies.
Chauthaiwale, who attributed the spurt in support for Modi to three major reasons, said that issues of “national security, the development record of the Modi government and the foreign policy initiatives” have had a clear resonance on the ground.
The BJP’s campaign is also being shored up by the vast network of volunteers associated with the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh, the overseas arm of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
While there is no data either with the parties or the Election Commission on how many NRIs turn up to vote, 71,735 Indians abroad are registered as voters with the Electoral Commission, of which 66,866 are men; 4,849 women and 20 belongs to the third gender.