NEW YORK: Prime Minister Narendra Modi today described Mahatma Gandhi as a “pravasi bharatiya” or Non Resident Indian (NRI), drawing a hearty applause from a large gathering of Indian Americans at New York’s Madison Square Garden.
“You are pravasi bharatiyas. Like you, there was one MK Gandhi. He was also an NRI,” he said, his audience clapping loudly at the comparison.
“Gandhi returned to India in January, 1915. Next year, 2015, it will be 100 years of Gandhi’s return. The Pravasi Bharatiya Diwas is held on 8-9 January every year. Many of you come for that. This time it will be held in Ahmedabad,” he announced.
He urged Indians abroad to draw inspiration from Gandhi’s return. “Gandhi went abroad, became a barrister, had opportunities, but he came back to serve the nation. I appeal to you to try and find a way to pay your debt to your motherland,” he said.
PM Modi’s hour-long speech was peppered with references to Mahatma Gandhi, whom he called “Mohanlal Karamchand” instead of “Mohandas Karamchand” at one point – a slip that was noted on social media.
He appealed for a clean India pledge to honour Gandhi. “On 2019, India will celebrate the 150th birth anniversary of Gandhi. He gave us freedom, what did we give him? We should work for two ideas that were dear to him – India’s independence and cleanliness.”
He also said, “Mahatma Gandhi made the freedom struggle a mass movement. Let’s make development a mass movement.”
Mr Modi is on a five-day tour of the US, his first since he took power in May.