NEW YORK (TIP): “I like meeting Indians outside India even as I like to meet Indians in India”, said Anil Shastri, a senior Congress leader and a son of the illustrious father late Prime Minister of India, Lal Bahadur Shastri. He was speaking at a reception in his honor in New York.
Mr. Shastri had been to Mexico City to represent Congress Party at the Standing Committee of International Conference of Asian political Parties from October 12 to 14. He had stopped over in New York on his way back home. The Standing committee of ICAP has 25 members who represent political parties. Each of the political party was represented by 1 representative. The ICAP Standing Committee discussed various issues like Drug Trafficking, environment, corruption. The idea is to sit together and find workable solutions to the problems which could be applied collectively and singly in their respective nations. Mr. Shastri termed his visit as successful and his participation in the conference as educative, productive and rewarding.
The reception in New York was hosted by the INOC (I) Madhya Pradesh Chapter President Juned Qazi who recently received commendation for his work for the party in India and abroad from Dr. Karan Singh, one of the most respected senior leaders of Indian national Congress and in charge of the overseas organizations of the party.
Juned Qazi and his colleagues put together a warm reception for Mr. Shastri and his wife Manju Shastri (formerly Srivastava) at a short notice at NanKing Restaurant in Long Island. The gathering included INOC (I) President George Abraham, with his wife and several INOC (I) Chapter presidents that included Kerala Chapter President, Tamil Nadu Chapter President and Delhi Chapter President Zinda Singh with his wife Tina Shah. Indian Congress Party President Atma Singh with Chairman Ram Gadula, Advisor Harkesh Thakur, Secretary Pal Singh and some other members joined Juned Qazi in extending a warm welcome to Shastri Ji and his wife.
Mr. Shastri preferred to hear the remarks and comments of the gathering before addressing them. Speaker after speakers recalled the greatness of the Late Lal Bahadur Shastri, the illustrious father of Mr. Anil Shastri. He was variously described by speakers,; one called him “the Lion of India” who had brought the braggart Ayub Khan to his knees in the 1965 war between India and Pakistan. Another described Late Shastri Ji as the most honest politician of India. Atma Singh recalled how Lal Bahadur Ji strove to get education despite poverty. He said the young Shastri Ji swam across the Ganges, with books and notebooks tied on his head , to go to the school. Mr. Anil Shastri was visibly moved and later described some moments of late Shastri Ji’s eventful life. One related to a car loan. Shastri Ji was the Prime Minister. He could have got anything for the mere asking. But he was a man of principles. He took a Rs. 5000.00 bank loan to buy a car. Because he died suddenly without repaying the loan, his wife took upon herself to repay it. Such has been the principled life of the members of the Shastri family.
Atma Singh spoke feelingly about the killing of thousands of Sikhs in the wake of Indira Gandhi’s assassination in 1984. He lamented that those responsible for the brutal killing of thousands in Delhi and elsewhere are holding positions of power in the Congress Party and the government even while they have been named and indicted by various Commissions of Enquiry. He was upset with the party and the government for not punishing the guilty of riots against the Sikhs even after almost 30 years. He demanded that those who have been named and indicted be punished forthwith to win back the trust of the Sikh community. The least that the Congress Party could do was to remove them from the party.
He also pointed out that the overseas organization suffered from differences and disunity which resulted in weakening the party. He praised Juned Qazi for making sincere efforts to forge unity. He offered to merge his organization -the Indian Congress Party in the INOC (I) if there was unity of purpose and unity of mind of all. He sought the intervention of Mr. Shastri in bringing about an understanding amongst the differing groups and members.
Earlier, introducing Mr. Anil Shastri, Juned Qazi said Mr. Shastri is a senior member of the Congress Party. He was a Member of ninth Lok Sabha from Varanasi. Also, he was a Minister in the Ministry of Finance, Govt. of India. Presently, he is Special Invitee to the Congress Working Committee and Chairman of the Hindi Department in All India Congress Committee. He has been instrumental in promoting higher education particularly in the field of management. He has set up two institutions and is the Chairman of Lal Bahadur Shastri Institute of Management, Delhi and Lal Bahadur Shastri Institute of Management & Technology, Bareilly. Mr. Shastri is the Holding Trustee of Lal Bahadur Shastri National Memorial Trust which is involved with various socio-cultural activities.
Juned Qazi extended a warm welcome to Mrs. and Mr. Shastri and thanked them for having accepted his invitation to come and meet INOC (I) members and other supporters and sympathizers of the Congress Party. He said he was happy to welcome all who had come despite a short notice. He thanked everyone for their love and support.
He said he was deeply interested in strengthening the organization. He underscored the need to be united. He said the party was under attack from all sides for which reason it is all the more important and necessary to be united.
INOC (I) President Mr. George Abraham in his remarks described his efforts at bringing method and vibrancy to the organization. He said he had cobbled together a Constitution which never existed earlier and had readied a newsletter to reach out the message of the party to larger numbers. Mr. Abraham presented to Mr. Shastri a copy of each, the constitution and the newsletter.
Others who spoke included Zinda Singh, President of Delhi Chapter and presidents of various other chapters as also some others from the gathering.
Mr. Anil Shastri took pains in his remarks to apply balm to the wounded feelings of the Sikh community. He said President of the Congress Party Sonia Gandhi had offered a public apology for the 1984 anti-Sikh riots. Again, Sajjan Kumar and Jagdish Tytler were denied party tickets to contest elections. However, it was not for the party or the Congress government to punish them beyond the action the party had taken. “We are a democracy. We have to go by the rule of the law”, said Mr. Shastri. He said it was for the prosecution to come up with a case against them and it is for the courts to punish or acquit them.
Mr. Shastri was all praise for Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. He claimed that India National Congress deserved credit for India’s progress. The party is progressive and has an agenda for making India one of the most prosperous and powerful nations of the world. He said soon India will be a top economic power along with China.
As for corruption, he said every country had its own share of corruption.. “India is no exception”, he said. A India goes forward with reforms, certain lacunae cannot be ruled out, he said. However, he personally favors a strong Lok Pal bill which Congress Party had passed in the Lok Sabha but the BJP had blocked it in Rajya Sabha where Congress did not have adequate majority.
Speaking about those Congressman who were accused of corruption, like Suresh Kalmadi, he said the party leadership had taken immediate action and removed them from their positions. Suresh Kalmadi and Maharashtra Chief Minister Chavan had to go.
He recalled that it was his late father Lal Bahadur Shastri who had created the institution of Chief Vigilance Commissioner (CVC) .
Speaking about differences of opinion amongst members of a group, Mr. Shastri said that differences offer opportunities to come up with better ideas. “You do not grow if every one agreed with ever one”, he said. But differences have also to be resolved in the interest of the party and leadership.
Mr. Shastri appreciated the good work being done by INOC (I). He also appreciated Atma Singh’s plain speak and for opening up his heart.
Mrs. and Mr. Shastri were very generous in letting everyone have a picture with them.
Sonia Keer, Secretary of the M.P. Chapter of INOC (I) that hosted the reception thanked Mrs. and Mr. Shastri and all present for their presence and time .