London: On the heels of Aatish Taseer’s article in Time magazine titled ‘Can the World’s Largest Democracy Endure Another Five Years of a Modi Government,’ which created a furore in India among Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s followers or bhakts and the author was viciously trolled, came an article in the same publication with the headline ‘Modi Has United India Like No Prime Minister in Decades’ written by London-based Manoj Ladwa.
Did the internationally-renowned Time get so overawed by criticism from the bhakts that it relented and provided valuable space in its magazine and website to an ideologue of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and a hardcore supporter and publicist of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), who has been helping Modi by bankrolling various events for the Indian diaspora and non-resident Indians not only in the United Kingdom but in other countries as well?
Ladwa is now well known in India as one among the Prime Minister’s favoured electoral and social media strategists. He has been interviewed on television news channels, including by Barkha Dutt for Tiranga TV. However, not much is known about the man.
Ladwa began his professional career as a solicitor and lobbyist in London and later worked as Communications Director for the “Narendra Modi for Prime Minister” campaign in 2014. He headed the campaign’s “research, analysis, and messaging” team in New Delhi and worked closely with the top BJP leadership to coordinate the national communications strategy of the party in the 2019 elections.
In London, he first started getting noticed, along with Vikas Pota, as founders of Saffron Chase, an events management and lobbying firm conducting annual receptions for the Labour Friends of India organisation. Both Ladwa and Pota are known to be members of the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh (HSS), the British wing of RSS, and a non-governmental organisation named SEWA International which is close to the RSS.
Saffron Chase’s services were reportedly used by the Bharatiya Janata Party-led National Democratic Alliance government in 2001 (headed then by Atal Bihari Vajpayee) to lobby with the Labour Party on its behalf. In 2005, Saffron Chase attempted to get Modi to the UK when they invited him for Gujarat Day celebrations, but that visit was called off as there were apprehensions that Modi may be arrested following a complaint made against him by two mothers who had lost their sons in the 2002 Gujarat riots.
But Ladwa and Pota continued to lobby with the Labour Party and in 2008, Labour MP Barry Gardiner succeeded in getting 117 signatures from UK MPs in favour of the Vibrant Gujarat business summit. In the following year, Shailesh Vara, the then shadow Deputy Leader of the House of Commons had to quit the All Parliamentary Group on trade and investment with India after he was confronted with information about the connection between his private property company, Saffron Ridge, and Saffron Chase with the latter lobbying to persuade him to help Indian businesses.
Initially, Vara denied any links with Modi’s supporters in the UK but it was revealed that not only did both companies share the same registered address in Staines, Middlesex, but they also had another mutual connection in solicitor Ladwa, who was also the then director of Saffron Chase. In 2012, Saffron Chase merged with his MLS Chase Group.
In 2010, Ladwa founded India Inc, a media organisation which includes brands such as the India Investment Journal and India Investment Conclaves. He is also a founder member and the first President of National Hindu Students Forum UK.
In addition, Ladwa is founder Trustee of the charity, SEWA International, which is known for its affiliation with the RSS, and which is known to have raised large amounts of money for Modi and BJP in Britain. He also hosts the annual UK-India Awards that celebrates business partnerships between the two counties, which are attended by senior BJP ministers and UK ministers. In addition, the India Inc Leaders’ Summit is organised by Ladwa and his associates. In 2018, the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) was the partner of India Inc in organising the event.
This report is written by a London-based independent journalist.