//Modi’s US friend gets Pravasi award

Modi’s US friend gets Pravasi award

The Asian Age India /Jan 5 2006 – New Delhi:

 The "secular" Congress-led UPA government has selected the Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s pointperson in the United States, Dr Sudhir Parikh, who is also a close friend of Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi, as one of the 12 recipients of the Pravasi Bharatiya Samman [Non-resident Indian] awards. Dr Parekh was the key organiser of the finally-aborted visit of Mr Modi to the US to start what he had termed the "Gaurav Yatra" [Pride Procession] from New York to Los Angeles after the violence in Gujarat had claimed over 2,000 lives. Dr Parekh, an allergist in the US, had extended the invitation to the Gujarat chief minister at a function in Ahmedabad in what was projected as a repeat of Mr Modi’s Gaurav Yatra undertaken just before the December 2002 Assembly elections in the state. An intense campaign by US-based human rights groups against the visit eventually persuaded the US government not to grant a visa to Mr Modi. Dr Parekh, however, has remained consistent in praising the chief minister and applauding his many "achievements." He is widely recognised as an influential Sangh supporter in the United States.

 The UPA government has selected Dr Parekh as one of the recipients for this prestigious award, which will be presented by President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam to select Persons of Indian Origin at the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas celebrations in Hyderabad next week. January 9 is a date carefully selected by the ministry of overseas Indian affairs as it was on this date in 1915 that Mahatma Gandhi had returned to India from South Africa. Dr Parekh, who felicitated Mr Modi at a time when he was under attack for the communal violence in the state, is now amongst the handful of PIOs selected from different parts of the world to be honoured by the President of India on this date. The decision has sent shockwaves through social activists both in both India and in the United States. Eminent Gandhians like Ms Nirmala Deshpande reportedly contacted Congress president Sonia Gandhi on her return from her Mauritius holiday to take up the issue. The response from the Congress leadership was that the decision had been taken by a committee headed by Vice-President Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, and that since the decision had already been taken there was little that the government or Mrs Sonia Gandhi could do about it.

 Angry activists told this newspaper that they were "shocked beyond belief," with several PIOs who had participated in the campaign against Mr Modi in the US now seriously considering a boycott of the function. The list of nominees for the special government award is based on recommendations by the special committee, the Indian ambassador to the United States, in this case Mr Ronen Sen, as well as the government and the concerned ministry that remain the final authority. The list of recipients has still not been released officially by the ministry, although Mr Parekh has been informed and will be flying down to India specially for the ceremony.

 The Rajiv Gandhi Foundation (RFG), which is headed by Mrs Sonia Gandhi, had earlier sent alarm bells ringing through the secular camp when it had judged Gujarat under Mr Narendra Modi last year to be the best governed state. The Modi government had immediately highlighted the report while the BJP held press conferences pointing out that even the RGF, headed by the Congress president, had given top position to Gujarat in terms of development, administration, absence of corruption and even providing security to people and maintaining social harmony. This report is now being recalled by angry activists, who were earlier confident that the award to Mr Parekh would be cancelled but have now been told otherwise by the Congress leadership.

 The Nanavati Commission is now considering a petition by Gujarat activists who want the government to explain why it sought privilege in refusing to release the letter written by late President K.R. Narayanan to then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee asking about the delay in controlling the violence in Gujarat. The petitioners are hopeful that the commission will now direct the government to release the letter, which can prove very damaging for the BJP which was then heading the government at the Centre as well as the Modi government in the state.

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