New York: Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi is scheduled to address a public meeting on Wednesday arranged by the the party’s overseas wing as part of its push to enlist Non-resident Indians (NRIs).
On Monday in Washington, Gandhi, who is on a tour of the US, spoke at the pro-Democratic Party think tank, Centre for American Progress (CAP), which was founded by John Podesta, who was Hillary Clinton’s campaign chairman and former US President Bill Clinton’s Chief of Staff.
Gandhi also met Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, a Democrat.
The Congress party leader was scheduled to address a meeting on Tuesday at Princeton University in New Jersey.
It was organised by the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs Centre of International Security Studies and is restricted to the university community.
The New York meeting at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in Times Square caps Gandhi’s US visit with an interaction with the general public in a strategy devised by Sam Pitroda, who was appointed Chairman of the Congress Party’s Overseas Department, to expand its NRI ranks.
Shudh Parkash Singh, the president of the party’s overseas wing (INOC) in the US, told IANS he was organising the meeting for Gandhi so “NRIs can know first hand what his (Gandhi’s) vision is, what his ideology is and Congress is.
“We wanted him to have meetings with people, face-to-face, in order to turn around (his) image projected by the BJP through managed media. They are out to destroy his image and we are trying to do the opposite.”
Singh said the event is financed entirely by the INOC, supplemented with contributions from sponsors and advertisers in a brochure published for the event.
Gandhi will be in New York City in the middle of the UN General Assembly’s annual high-level session, which brings in global leaders for meetings in the UN and elsewhere in the city.
Asked if Gandhi planned to meet any of the visiting leaders, Singh said he would not. “His New York visit is exclusive for our event.”
Singh said that he and a delegation from the INOC met Gandhi in Delhi in April and invited him to the US. They followed it up with Pitroda, who set up the meeting, he added.
Ganhi’s visit is part of Pitroda’s strategy to harness NRIs to support the party — a plan that has been a success for the Bharatiya Janata Party.
While the Congress has large base among academics, intellectuals and the media, the BJP has been able to project a much broader support level among NRIs, mobilising several thousands to attend Modi’s meetings in New York and San Jose in mammoth arenas.
A PowerPoint presentation circulated by Pitroda calls for expanding the current network of 18 overseas party cells to 50 with focus on major global cities in the US, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia, Britain, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Kuwait, Mauritius and Canada.
The plan is to create a network to connect the NRIs to party leaders at state and district levels and to help return NRIs enter Indian Politics.
Besides Pitroda, Congress Party leaders Milind Deora and Shashi Tharoor were among the facilitators for the US visit.
Gandhi’s programme started on the West Coast with a September 11 speech at the University of California Berkeley where he defended dynastic politics.
In California, he also met with some leading Silicon Valley venture capitalists like Vinod Khosla, the co-founder of Sun Microsystems; Kaitark Ram Shriram, founding board member of Google and Sanjay Subhedar, according to a tweet from Deora.
Gandhi also visited the electric car manufacturer Tesla.
In Los Angles, he was a guest of Nicolas Berggruen, who runs an investment company and a think tank, and met with leaders from Hollywood and entertainment industry, Deora tweeted.