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"A vital collection of progressive essays on what a modern India-UK partnership could mean."

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Modi-Mood in London


On Monday, I attended the annual reception of the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), at Central Methodist Hall in Westminster. The CII’s UK head, Gunveena Chadha, always goes all out, and this time was no exception.

Some of India’s top business leaders, including heads of Tata and State Bank of India (SBI) were present. Many of the who’s-who of British India business and politics were also there, including the ubiquitous Rami Ranger and Baroness Verma and an array Lords including Meghnad Desai (at last once again sporting his famous Don King like hair-do), Lib Dems Navnit Dholakia and Raj Loomba, minister Greg Barker, and Labour representatives MPs Barry Gardiner and Seema Malhotra.

I did not, however, spot my friend Shailesh Vara, leader of the Conservative Friends of India.

Earlier in the day, the CII delegation met senior LibDem and Business Secretary Vince Cable, and the Labour Party’s very own “Obama” Chuka Umunna. Chukka made it absolutely clear that the “UK must be a part of India’s amazing growth story” and listened intently to the list of very credible suggestions, including greater focus on high-end manufacturing, education and skills, and supporting small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs). All this I was sure would be music to the ears of the UK India Business Council (UKIBC) and its popular chair Patricia Hewitt.

But throughout the day, one thing was obvious. At every event the Modi name (though not quite “NaMo Mantra” yet) was on virtually everyone’s lips. Overwhelmingly, the consensus from the British political and business establishment was obvious – Modi’s elevation as the chairman of the BJP’s election campaign would be a game-changer. The world wants and indeed, to read between Chukka’s lines, needs to see India raise its game.

I, however, tried to air words of caution. Had none of these great luminaries heard that 86-year-old BJP patriarch L.K. Advani had resigned in protest at Modi’s appointment? They all had. But as one noble Lord said: “who cares – he has resigned thrice in the last eight years. Advani is the past, Modi is the future.”

Perhaps I would not have been as blunt. A day in Indian politics is a long time. Yet from London this week the expectation of a new era emerging was palpable. A new BJP (and consequently one hopes a new Congress), a new political narrative, and perhaps, just perhaps a new opportunity to spread the inclusive development that Gujarat has enjoyed to other parts of India. That can only be in the UK’s interest.

In London, at least, I think they get it.