The official explanation is that the dates of the BJP’s National Executive meeting and the World Hindu Congress are overlapping.
Top ministers of the Narendra Modi-led government belonging to the Bharatiya Janata Party are unlikely to attend the three-day World Hindu Congress being held in Chicago from 7 to 9 September. However, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh Sarsangachalak, Mohan Bhagwat is expected to address the 2,000 delegates from over 50 countries who are congregating in the city on the eve of the 125th anniversary of Swami Vivekananda’s historic address to the Parliament of World Religions. The Dalai Lama, spiritual guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, and Swami Swaroopananda, head of the Chinmaya Mission worldwide, will also be amongst the distinguished speakers.
Several Union Ministers, who had earlier confirmed their presence, are believed to have cancelled their programme after the Prime Minister’s Office informally conveyed to the organisers that the visit of government functionaries was subject to clearance from the Indian authorities. Thereafter, no Union Minister has yet been granted the requisite permission, meaning that they are not likely to travel to the United States for this purpose.
Sources said that the official explanation for the ministers not attending the conference is that the dates of the BJP’s National Executive meeting and the World Hindu Congress were overlapping, and in the run-up to the election year, top functionaries of the government needed to be present at the party conclave. Curiously, the dates of the World Hindu Congress were fixed several months ago, and if the BJP leadership wanted, it could have either advanced or delayed the meeting of the National Executive so as to enable those desirous of attending the conference to proceed to Chicago. The National Executive was originally slated for 18 and 19 August in New Delhi, but was postponed due to the demise of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
It is learnt that the Prime Minister is keen to distance the government from the World Hindu Congress, which is being viewed by several uncharitable international observers as a gathering of radical Hindus. The participation of Union Ministers would contribute in strengthening the charge being made by Indian Opposition parties that the government was lending its support to extreme Hindu elements flying in from the world over. The logic being that the agenda of the Hindu Congress had little similarity with the ideology of Swami Vivekananda, the iconic philosopher and thinker. Vivekananda, during his address 125 years ago to an international gathering in Chicago, had not espoused the cause of Hindutva, but had spoken on humanitarian issues, and its aspects which are universally acceptable, cutting across manmade religious boundaries.
It is apparent that the government wants to present a different image overseas than what currently it is sought to be labelled within this country, and thus does not wish to be identified as backing so-called radical elements from the Hindu community. While supporting the Hindutva ideology, it does not want to give its detractors an excuse to interpret the participation of its ministers as a sign of it endorsing any kind of ultra-elements.
It could not be immediately ascertained whether Vice President M. Venkaiah Naidu, would be travelling to Chicago for the meet. Union Minister Nitin Gadkari has already cancelled his trip, while the organisers claim that at least two Chief Ministers, Yogi Adityanath and Devendra Fadnavis have confirmed their participation.
The theme of this year’s Congress is, “Sumantrite Suvikrante (Think Collectively, Achieve Valiantly)”. The conference is being organised by the World Hindu Foundation, headed by IIT-Kharagpur graduate, Swami Vigyananand. Prof Sriprakash Kothari of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) would be co-chairing the three-day conference. The convention will have seven parallel sessions on economics, education, media, organisation, politics, women and youth. The participants will connect, discuss and push awareness about critical issues facing Hindus worldwide and figure ways on how the community can be globally significant and impactful. “The World Hindu Congress would bring enlightenment throughout the world about the Hindu view of life through a message of spirituality, harmony and inclusiveness,” a spokesman of the Congress said.
The Chicago meet would be chaired by the 36-year-old Tulsi Gabbard, a three-time Democratic Congress woman from Hawaii. Incidentally, she is the only Hindu legislator in the US Congress.