By: Pooja Shrivastava
ONE of the founders of the UK-based Overseas Friends of the BJP, Lalubhai (Dhirubhai) Parekh, passed away on Monday (26).
Parekh was also a leader of the Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh and a former president of the National Congress of Gujarati Organizations and a trustee.
A native of Rajkot, Gujarat, Parekh settled in 1957 in Mwanza, Tanzania, East Africa. He began his career as a lawyer in Mwanza and provided legal advice to the country’s president.
He also served as minister of the Hindu Union in Mwanza.
Parekh arrived in the UK in 1971. Instead of practising law, he started his own business and ran a post office in King’s Cross, London.
He then bought a hotel in the same area and ventured into the hospitality sector.
The shifting of the Eurostar terminals from Waterloo to King’s Cross proved beneficial for him as travellers looked for accommodation in that part of central London.
Parekh was an influential leader of the Gujarati community in Britain. He was closely associated with leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party, including India’s
current prime minister Narendra Modi, former prime minister Shri Atal Bihari Vajpayee and former home minister LK Advani.
Parekh was also known as the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s (RSS) “Vakil Saheb” or lawyer. The RSS is close to the BJP and prior to becoming chief minister of Gujarat, Modi spent time in the organisation.
Parekh also had close ties with veteran Gujarati politicians Keshubhai Patel, Vajubhai Wala, and Chimanbhai Shukla.
In the UK, he was close to Lord Dholakia, Lord Popat, Conservative MP Bob Blackman and Labour MP Barry Gardiner.
It was in 1992 that the Overseas Friends of the BJP was set up and Parekh was among its founding members.
He served as the organisation’s president for 10 years and later as a patron, steward and mentor of the organization till his last breath.
He was known for his work with the Indian community in the UK and for instilling a sense of pride and love for India in communities across the UK. He also worked to help start a direct flight between London and Ahmedabad.
He was also vocal about the difficulties faced by Indians with regards to visas and Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cards and made several representations to the Indian High Commission.
Parekh was a founding activist of the UK-based Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh.
He served in various Gujarati organisations as trustee and president. He was a trustee of the Navnat Vanik Association and a leading Jain leader.
Parekh was recognised by the National Congress of Gujarati Organizations for his services to the Bharatiya Janata Party and Gujaratis living in Britain on the occasion of Gujarat Day at the Kadwa Patidar Center in Harrow.