Anil Shastri, son of late Indian Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, was hosted by the I.O.C.U.S.A. in New York at Baldev Randhawa’s residence in New Rochell on September 28, 2023, to discuss current political dynamics in India. Mr. Shastri shared memories of his father and discussed the need to strengthen the I.O.C.’s hand to support the Indian National Congress party. He spoke in detail about how democracy is being diminished in India under Modi’s leadership and the importance of recapturing the letter and spirit of the constitution and saving democracy by defeating the ruling B.J.P. in the upcoming election.
“Unlike in last eight years, India’s electorate and young generation are now realizing their misperception of Narendra Modi’s rule, and re-election of B.J.P. for a third time could lead to a disaster. Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge, Sonia Gandhi, and Rahul Gandhi formed a broad coalition, “I.N.D.I.A.,” after winning states like Karnataka.” Mr. Shastri said. “Opposition parties like A.A.P., T.M.C., and NCP were reluctant to work under I.N.C.’s leadership before Karnataka elections. However, they now understood that Congress-led opposition with a one-on-one fight only can defeat B.J.P.,” he added.
He asserted that if any leader in India can answer Narendra Modi by looking into his eyes, it is Rahul Gandhi. Despite all the posturing, Narendra Modi is now afraid and feels threatened by the resurgence of the Congress Party. Anil Shastri criticized the B.J.P.’s “one nation, one election” concept, stating that simultaneous elections in the state and central governments would disrupt the Indian democratic process, potentially extending the President’s rule beyond six months, which needs a constitutional amendment and that the basic structure of Indian constitution is unchangeable. He criticized Modi’s government for deliberately using issues such as “one nation, one election,” etc., to divert the attention of the people from the real problems that they are facing. This is also a “Chunav ki jhumla” like depositing 15 lakh rupees in every citizen’s bank account.
Great leaders like Lal Bahadur Shastry and Jawaharlal Nehru thought their image would be magnified if the country’s image was built up. Contrary to that, Narendra Modi believes precisely the opposite, and Narendra Modi, as Prime Minister, used the recent G-20 sessions to build his own image, said Mr. Shastri. He also advised the I.O.C. volunteers to use social media and other related technology to the maximum extent to change people’s perceptions in India by conveying reality and facts to them.
Anil Shastri recounted his father Lal Bahadur Shastri’s extraordinary determination, honesty, and hard work. He shared anecdotes about his father’s refusal to accept Russian and other countries’ aid during food shortages and his father’s determination to protect his self-respect as Prime Minister of India. Answering an audience’s question, Anil Shastri said that his father was so poor that he could not afford a boat ticket. He also rejected the free ride offer of the boatman and used to swim across the mighty Ganges to attend his school.
When asked why he swam, Lal Bahadur Shastri said to Anil Shastri, “When a person cannot protect his self-respect, he will not have the right to live.” Similarly, he said that he could not compromise with the self-respect of India by accepting money or any aid from other countries during a food shortage. He not only advocated but also gave up dinner once a week as a response to the food grains blockade by the major powers during the Indo-Pak war. The meeting commemorated the immense achievements of Lal Bahadur Shastri, such as the sowing seeds of the green revolution and the victory of the Indo-Pak war.
Harbachan Singh, Secretary-General, welcomed Shri. Anil Shastri and his wife Manju to the meeting. Mr. George Abraham, vice-chairman, described the goals and aspirations of the I.O.C. and emphasized the importance of close cooperation and dialogue. Mohinder Singh Gilzian, the President, introduced Anil Shashtri to the audience and lauded him for his dedication and commitment to the party.
Gurmit Gill Mulapur, Amar Singh Gulshan, Sophia Sharma, Dayan Naik, Sharath Chandra Vemuganti, Joshua John, Baldev Randhawa, Jose George, Paul Karukapallil, Thomas Koshy and Harry Singh also spoke.
John Joseph thanked host Baldav Randhawa for their generous hosting of the event and the Chief Guest Anil Shashtri and Manju Shastri for their kind presence.