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Meet the BJP's American friends

By George Iype in Delhi
April 13, 2004 08:49 IST
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Some functionaries in the Bharatiya Janata Party headquarters had difficulty digesting the American accent of Professor Dinesh K Agrawal.

But Agrawal, a reputed professor of materials and director of the Microwave Processing and Engineering Centre at the Pennsylvania State University, is all around 10, Ashoka Road, the BJP election nerve-centre these days, helping the top party leaders in the elections.

"This is the overseas help that people like me are giving to the BJP leadership because we want the Vajpayee government to come back to power," says Professor Agrawal, who moves around with his leather handbag.

On Monday Agrawal was closeted with Law Minister and BJP strategist Arun Jaitley for long, discussing what the Indian American professor says 'the pride the Vajpayee government has showered on NRIs across the world'.

"This feel-good factor in India has transcended the country's boundaries. Some 20 million Indians living abroad are feeling great because India is doing extremely well," Professor Agrawal told

These days, supporters of the BJP from the United States like Professor Agrawal who form the Overseas Friends of the BJP -- the party's international arm -- are travelling across the length and breadth of India to feel what they claim 'the pulse of India'.

"We have come here to see how India is shining," says Professor Agrawal, who is the immediate past president of the OFBJP. "We want to travel and see how India's roads, telephones, electricity and transportation have improved."

In the next one week, Agrawal will traverse through the dust and heat of his village, Sambal in Uttar Pradesh, campaigning for the BJP's Sambal Lok Sabha candidate Omveer Singh Khadak Vanshi.

"I have not known the BJP candidate in Sambal. But I am ready to campaign for him because only the BJP government has made us proud NRIs abroad," the Pennysylvania State University professor points out.

Like Agrawal, some 20 Indian Americans are here campaigning for top BJP leaders, including Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and Deputy Prime Minister Lal Kishenchand Advani.

Last week, Ramesh Shah, the OFBJP national vice president got into the bus that Advani is travelling across the country these days on his Bharat Uday Yatra. Shah, a financial consultant at Houston in Texas, is from Gujarat. He will spend most of his "Lok Sabha poll duty" in Gujarat, campaigning for BJP leaders including Advani from Gandhinagar.

Chandrakant Patel, a businessman from Florida, is in Chhattisgarh campaigning for the BJP candidates. Vijay Kelkar, another businessman from Los Angeles, is campaigning for the Shiv Sena and BJP candidates in Mumbai and Pune.

What is the agenda of the motley group of BJP supporters from the US? Are they funding the election campaign of the candidates?

"No. We are not here to give any money to the BJP leadership. That is not our agenda. We are here to see the transformation of India under the Vajpayee government," says Professor Agrawal.

So if India continues to shine, will people like Professor Agrawal shift from America and settle down in India?

"Why not? That is a seriously possibility that many of us are debating. But personally, let me ask my wife," smiles Professor Agrawal.

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George Iype in Delhi