The Sangh Parivar has now added one more name to its new list of unlikely friends. Earlier this week, eyebrows were raised when the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) invited former President Pranab Mukherjee to address its workers on June 7. Now its affiliate, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), has extended an invitation to former RBI governor, Raghuram Rajan, to speak at the upcoming World Hindu Congress (WHC) in Chicago, US.
"He has said he will try, so we are hoping he will make it," one of the organisers, who did not wish to be identified, told The Economic Times. The invitation certainly marks a U-turn from the Sangh's previous equation with Rajan - in fact, political parties and the media alike claimed that the RSS had played a significantly role in denying him a second term. And now they want him to address what has been billed as the biggest-ever gathering of the who's who of the Hindu community across the globe.
The WHC, scheduled to be held over the September 7-9 weekend, commemorates 125 years of Swami Vivekananda's historic address to the Parliament of World Religions in Chicago on September 11, 1893. More than 2,000 Hindu delegates from over 50 countries are expected to attend it.
If he does accept the invite, Rajan will be rubbing shoulders with a diverse guest list, including Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, Hollywood star Richard Gere, RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, Indian corporate honchos like Piramal Group chairman Ajay Piramal and KPMG India chairman Arun Kumar, Art of Living founder Sri Sri Ravi Shankar and Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The chief ministers who have confirmed their participation at the event include Yogi Adityanath from Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra's Devendra Fadnavis.
Tulsi Gabbard, the first Hindu lawmaker in the US Congress, is the chairperson of the Chicago WHC, which is being organised by the World Hindu Foundation. The latter was founded by Swami Vigyananand, VHP's Joint General Secretary. According to organisers, some Bollywood superstars as well as heads of Fortune 500 companies are also likely to attend the one-in-for-years mega-event.
The inaugural WHC held in New Delhi in November 2014 had seen participation of 1800 delegates from over 50 countries. The theme this time round is "Sumantrite Suvikrante", or think collectively, achieve valiantly. The event, which will see concurrent conferences on economics, education, media, politics, youth involvement, women participation and collaboration of Hindu organizations, claims to be the largest global platform for Hindus to connect, share ideas and introspect.
Noting that some 30 years ago, no one in the world cared about China, Swami Vigyananand recently told PTI that the world is now paying attention to the country because of its economic power, which results in military power and global power. "Our whole purpose is to regain economic strength," he said, adding, "The day Hindus - who constitute 16 per cent of the world population - become 16 per cent of the world economy, people would start listening to them [Hindus]."
It will be interesting to see what Rajan will contribute in such an event, assuming he attends it.