Meet the man who made Sheikhs roll out red carpet for Modi

Ahmedabad: If Ahmedabad-based businessman Zafar Sareshwala is to be believed, Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Sheikh Zayad Mosque in Abu Dhabhi was not his first. Earlier in 2010, Modi had visited Sarkhej Roza, a heritage mosque and tomb complex in Ahmedabad.

According to Zafar Sareshwala, the BJP leader has visited Sarkhej several times when he was the Chief Minister of Gujarat. Modi’s first public visit to a mosque was also in Gujarat with former President APJ Abdul Kalam in 2006.

It was in January 2015 when Sareshwala first suggested Modi to visit UAE for the best business prospects for India. Sareshwala, who was the only prominent Indian to accompany Modi to UAE, was known to Abu Dhabi’s Khalifa Bin Zayed as well as Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid.

After seeking the consent of the two powerful rulers of UAE, Zafar almost convinced Modi for his first visit to the gulf country, a leading trading partner of India. Zafar also suggested Modi to visit Sheikh Zayad Mosque, the third biggest mosque in the world to which the PM agreed.

The Gujarat BMW dealer Sareshwala also brought actor Salman Khan closer to Modi. Salman did help Sareshwala in strengthening his clout on the royal families in the Middle east. On 14 August, two days before Modi’s visit, Zafar flew to Abu Dhabi to overlook the final arrangements along with the Indian foreign office. Zafar stayed at the Emirates Palace Hotel, the place where a floor was booked for Modi. In almost all functions, Zafar was present with the PM.

The Muslim businessman, Sareshwala was appointed as Chancellor of the Maulana Azad National Urdu University by the Modi government. The chancellor then met Salman khan’s father Salim Khan, an old family friend. Salim Khan suggested that Sareshwala should start a series of discourse for the Muslim youths particularly in the field of education.

Salim Khan gave the programme its name too- ‘Talim ki Takat.’ Sources said that one such discourse has been organised in Banaras Hindu University which falls under Modi’s political constituency. After catching a plane at 10 pm on Monday night, Sareshwala will fly from Dubai to reach Varanasi for Talim ki Takat programme.

For Modi, Zafar Sareshwala is not only an aide but a brand as in 2002, Sareshwala family’s property was burnt in Gujarat by rioters after Godhra incident. –Daily Samvad

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