The Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), led by Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, has become the third major political party from India — after the Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party — to establish a presence in the United States, but the first to do so as a for-profit group.
NCP North America, Inc. was launched at a convention held on Friday and Saturday at the Marriott Marquis hotel overlooking New York’s Times Square. Party leaders from India, including Pawar, Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel and Maharashtra’s Deputy Chief Minister Chhagan Bhujbal were in town for the launch.
The organisation, incorporated in the state of New York, will function as a for-profit group, promoting business ties between investors and entrepreneurs in both countries. “We don’t want to raise funds under the guise of some non-profit businesses and say we are doing some laudable causes. Our cause is very simple: We will mobilise business,” says Lal Dadlaney, general secretary of NCP North America.
That mission started with the group’s inaugural convention. Jamshed Irani, a travel agent and an NCP North America office bearer from Houston, estimated the cost of the two-day event at about half a million dollars. Part of it was raised from corporate sponsors. Members pitched in with the rest. “The party members have contributed their own funds. The tables we sold here were again business people who wanted to come here and contribute,” says Dadlaney.
NCP North America wants to position itself along the lines of American lobby firms, which are paid to assist and advocate for their clients. A promotional brochure for the organisation declares that “NCP USA through their party affiliates in India is committed to provide assistance with the government of India at the Central and state levels to all Indians looking to participate in the development of India in any capacity and project.” Members say the main objective is to advise clients from the US who want to do business in India, by leveraging their connections with NCP leaders and the party in India. “They (NCP) will only help us in navigating all legal stuff,” explains Dadlaney.
If there’s any danger of that sounding like influence-peddling, it was apparently not a concern for the NCP’s leaders from India. There’s no indication that the NCP in India will profit financially from its American chapter’s activities. And NCP North America’s members have no reservations in declaring their commercial focus: “We are doing business here. So, why shy away from saying we are a for-profit corporation? And, I think in America, a capitalist society, this is what we need to say. Those old, tired ways of saying we are non-profits and still conduct activities, I think that we do not want,” says Dadlaney.
NCP North America is starting out with three chapters, in New York, Washington DC and Houston. The organisation claims about 1,000 members have paid $25 to join.
Ironically, for an overseas wing of a political party, politics is the one thing NCP North America will stay away from, according to its officials. Dadlaney says, “I don’t think there is any doubt in Pawar saheb’s mind from Day One that once we step outside the shores of India, there is no politics, for Indian politics to happen overseas.”