Presenting 'Shri Govardhan Brown' | india | Hindustan Times
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Presenting 'Shri Govardhan Brown'

india Updated: Nov 16, 2007 01:10 IST
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Wearing marigold garlands around his neck and a bright vermillion teeka on the forehead, Britain's prime minister was anointed Govardhan Brown on Wednesday by a large crowd of cheering Asians celebrating Diwali in the heart of the British establishment.

"From today, you are an honorary member of the Hindu community, as Govardhan Brown," said Ramesh Kallidai, general secretary of the Hindu Forum UK, to a beaming Gordon Brown inside a packed hall in the House of Commons, the British lower house of parliament.

"Please welcome Shri Govardhan Brown," he said to loud cheers and applause from a crowd that included scores of British members of parliament, as well as prominent Indian-born businessmen and politicians.

Hundreds of Asians had turned up from all over Britain for the occasion - an annual event that is organised jointly by British MPs and the Hindu Forum. This was the seventh Diwali at the House of Commons.

Kallidai explained that the word Govardhan had an auspicious and sacred meaning in Sanskrit - it's a hill in paradise - and told how Gordon Brown's ascendancy to prime ministership had been predicted by Keith Vaz, the longest-serving Asian MP, at last year's Diwali.

Vaz, a Labour MP and a leading light among Britain's Asians, told Brown again, "You are going to be prime minister for a long, long time."

Not to be outdone, Brown, bent low with folded hands, said, "Namaste. Diwali Mubarak, saal Mubarak" - his Hindi sounding not a bit out of place inside the ornate Cromwell Lobby room, which had taken on an appropriately Indian festive look for the occasion.

Huge traditional Indian brass lamps lit up the wood-panelled and carpeted room, its walls lined with painted portraits of British historical figures.

Throughout the hour-and-a-half-long event a steady stream of leading MPs from all political parties visited the function - and queued up to speak to an audience of Asian luminaries that included industrialist Swraj Paul, Indian High Commissioner Kamlesh Sharma, Indian hotelier Capt CP Krishna Nair and Dolar Popat, Chief Executive, London Inn Hotels.

Among dozens of leading MPs who turned up and spoke were Conservative Party chairwoman Caroline Spelman, Sailesh Vara, also of the Conservative Party, shadow leader of the House Theresa May, deputy leader of the House Harriet Harman, acting leader of the Liberal Democrats Vince Cable and Immigration Minister Tony McNulty.

Brown, lauding the Indian community for its contributions to British life and economy, said "you are playing an enormously successful role, showing that what we can achieve together is far greater than what we can achieve on our own."

"It is a role that will grow and grow in the years to come," he added, singling out Indian contributions in business, public services, faith groups and charity.

And then, tongue in cheek, he told Vaz: "I hope you will invite me next year too."