Thakur Artha Deva Aditya Niranjan de S Deva Aditya Seesodia Suryiawansa (Nirj Deva) DL FRSA was MP (1992-97) in the UK and European Parliament for over 25 years representing the South East of England. He made history as the first Asian post war Conservative MP and MEP.
India’s tryst with destiny prophesised on the day of her Independence some 73 years ago and postponed repeatedly is about to be realised.
Some of those 73 years saw India espouse non alignment, stagnation, war, a withdrawal into protectionism-eschewing global free trade, with the worlds most populous democracy shying away from promoting democracy throughout the world and nursing a small and insignificant economy riven by corruption, poor decision making and endemic poverty.
All that has changed with the election of Prime Minister Narendra Modi as Prime Minister of All India on the 24th May 2014. Following a second general election victory Prime Minister Modi has stamped his authority on the future development of India as a global power, the third largest economy and the centre for global investment with Indian defence, security and space programmes flourishing.
PM Modi has done something else. He has taken Hinduism the worlds oldest religion and has made a global space for it in the same way the Christian, Muslims and Buddhists have done with theirs over thousands of years. No longer is Hinduism some obscure Indian religion practised in unknown temples scattered across India. Hindu practises, Yoga, Meditation, Ayurveda are being mainstreamed and in some case made fashionable to millions of non-practitioners throughout the world. When His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar came to the European Parliament on World Yoga Day and caused the representatives of 500 million European peoples to do into deep meditation, I knew that this ancient religion had made its permanent mark.
When the Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Home Secretary Priti Patel and the Business Secretary of the United Kingdom Alok Sharma took their Parliamentary oaths on the Bhagavad-Gita, Hinduism had come home to the very centre of what was once the British Empire; and when the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom David Cameron speaking in the UK to a 100,000 members of a UK audience spoke in Hindi with Prime Minister Modi beside him, I knew that PM Modi had exported Indian culture the same way the British had exported their culture throughout the world -250 years ago. In a interdependent culturally diverse connected world this is the way to go forward, all together. All for one and one for all, and nobody First.
On the 17th of September we celebrate Narendra Modi’s birth 70 years ago in Vadnagar in the Mehsana District of Gujarat to a poor family becoming a member, by this simple act of birth, of the 800 million people who were then categorised as poor. Today that figure has come down to 400 million, due in part to what Narendra Modi and his Party have done over the years to encourage entrepreneurship, a subject that Narendra Modi and his father Mulchand knew well as they bought and sold groceries, much in the fashion of another famous Prime Minister’s family, Margaret Thatcher’s.
Both Prime Ministers changed the country they were born into.
Both were deeply proud of their heritage, culture and contribution to the world’s values and civilisation. Both found their countries in extremis, financially backwards and not growing and both changed that. India was growing at the rate of 7 percent before the covid 19 pandemic. It is a miracle that she is still growing at 3.5 percent when other countries are in deep recession with negative rates.
When we celebrate Narendra Modi’s birthday we are not merely celebrating the birth of a man. We are celebrating the birth of a truly transformative figure, which India has a habit of throwing up in each generation. The last one was Mohandas Gandhi, another Gujarati with firm roots in Hinduism, together with before that several transformative personalities like Swami Vivekananda, Sri Ramakrishna and today’s astonishing Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.
I am proud as a British Sinhalese of my Indian heritage when my ancestor came from the Seesodia Surywansa family in Udaipur to restore the throne of his brother in law the usurped Sri Lankan King Bhuvenika Bahu in 1272. Our Indian heritage, culture, food, language, music and dance are in all of us, Sri Lankans, Maldivians, Pakistanis, Bangladeshi’s, even some Burmese and Malaysians and Indonesians.
India, an economic giant, now the third largest in terms of purchasing power parity touches all our lives, particularly the lives of my former 8 million people constituency in the South East of England as the UK largest employer and the source of their favourite meals.
When India thrives, the UK thrives and South Asia thrives. When Narendra Modi thrives India thrives and so we wish him “Many Happy returns and a safe life”