By Surekha Vijh
WASHINGTON: With India in grip of election fever, Indian Americans too are enthusiastically voicing their support for their prime ministerial candidate and the party and sending their message to India.
“This is an important election in our home country,” said Mukesh Shah. “We want to be involved in any capacity,” added Rani Patel.
In fact, Washington DC has witnessed a new trend, with Indian Americans joining their leaders in India via satellite.
For example, on International Women’s Day (IWD), the non-resident Indians (NRIs) had a live interaction with BJP prime ministerial candidate Narendra Modi. They had Chai Pe Charcha with Modi and stayed up the whole night to chat with Modi.
The Comfort Inn in suburban Maryland started swelling up with Indian Americans. Men, women with their children filled up the main conference room around 9 pm. Traditional Indian snacks were served. People chatted over snacks as patriotic songs played in the background. Some children danced to Bollywood music. Men huddled up with their male friends and women with their female friends. People spent the night discussing the political, economic and current situation in India. Some took naps and some continued to watch Indian movies on the big screen they had put up for the morning. Many people thought it as the first time when the NRIs along with their little kids stayed up the whole night to interact with their leader in India.
Suresh Kumar, who originally hailed from Haryana, found the event interesting. ”I enjoyed the interaction with fellow Indian Americans and Indians in India,” he said.
Dr. Anju Preet, who helped organize the event, said, “We are so happy with the support of Indian Americans and that they were able to come and hear Modi live and also give their suggestions.’’
It was in the morning, around 6am, when people became energetic again. The discussion was initiated by serving hot Namo Tea. Indian chai was served with Gujarati-style breakfast. Then it was live from Delhi, where they had connected to other continents, including Frankfurt, Germany, Tokyo, Japan and Washington DC. Narendra Modi then took suggestions from NRI women on IWD during the second round of Chai Pe Charcha. While enjoying tea during the cold wintery morning, people asked Modi serious questions.
Citing the victory of acid victim Lakshmi in forcing implementation of the prohibition of the free sale of acid by the Indian Supreme Court, Anju Preet suggested to Modi to provide state recognition to brave women.
“Given the very early time of the morning of Chai Pe Charcha and due to the time difference between India and the US, they organized Namo Jaagran (keep awake) the previous night of charcha (discussion),” added Preet,
Lawrence Russell from Falls Church, Virginia, said it was great to see people interacting from different continents. “Definitely it is an important and powerful way to connect.”
The Chai pe Charcha event was inaugurated by Dinesh Patel and Nimesh Patel. Women attendee women urged female voters in India to go out and participate in the building of democracy by exercising their right to vote.
In an earlier via satellite event, many in the Republican leadership in Washington DC congratulated Narendra Modi on being nominated as the prime ministerial candidate of the Opposition BJP, and extending him an invitation to address Congressional leaders and Indian Americans via satellite on Capitol Hill.
“I want to congratulate you on winning the nomination of the BJP for Prime Minister of India,” said Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers in a congratulatory message to Modi.
The day was billed as “Bharat (India) Day on Capitol Hill”, the day-long event was being hosted by the House Republican Conference in the US House of Representatives of which Congresswoman Rodgers is the chair; in association with Shalabh Kumar, who is the chair of the Indian American Advisory Council.
Rodgers, who had travelled to India early this year along with a few other lawmakers and met Modi in Gujarat, is only the second woman to serve as Chairwoman of this powerful House Republican body.
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, various committee members and members of the house leadership had also attended.
“It would be nice to see this trend continue and there are more discussions via satellite between Washington, DC and India”, said Vijay Nair.