Obviously, the purpose is to connect with the diaspora on a mass scale.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had proved this point many times over in his first tenure during visits to the US, Britain, the UAE (Dubai) and Australia (Melbourne), among other places.
In the run up to the elections that concluded in May, he made bold to say that India was better known today because of his foreign travels and addressing fellow-Indians in large numbers.
Some Modi acolytes have pooh-poohed Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan’s Sunday (July 21) rally at Washington’s Capital One Arena to that of the Indian premier’s at Madison Square Garden on September 28, 2014.
The two were first events by the two premiers and hence, a comparison is possible. Khan’s meeting was organized by his Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf party, probably its US branch. Modi’s meeting was organised by a newly established group then, called the Indian American Community Foundation.
Although the American diaspora of the two South Asian nations differ wildly in terms of numbers and the quality of what they are doing there, the figure of those estimated to have attended compare fairly well.
The Madison Square event had 19,000 people from out of over 30,000 who had applied to be seated in the huge place with two screens telecasting the event.
Khan’s meeting organisers had anticipated 15,000 to 20,000 but figure placed was between 20,000 and 30,000. No doubt, both had cheering crowds with huge presence of the young.
But it doubtful – since there are reports to indicate — if any local dignitaries were present at Khan’s do. The New York Times reported that Modi’s meeting was attended by “three dozen American” elected representatives who were enthused by the song and dance events that preceded Modi’s appearance and speech.
Time magazine reported:
“Thousands of Indian Americans turned out to cheer the visiting leader, almost filling the giant hall to capacity. Over 18,000 people had been assigned free tickets via a lottery, after more than 30,000 applied to attend. Inside, as the crowd settled in, big screens above the stage flashed stylized portraits of Modilooking out into the far distance that resembled Shepard Fairey’s 2008 “Hope” poster of Barack Obama. Many in the audience wore T-shirts bearing the same image. Accompanying the crowd was a contingent of American lawmakers: New Jersey Democrat and Senate Foreign Relations Committee chair Senator Bob Menendez was there, along with over three dozen congressional colleagues, and also the Indian-American Republican governor of South Carolina, Nikki Haley.”
That was almost five years ago. The Indian diaspora has only grown in strength and influence. In the US, Barack Obama is no longr the president and even his successor, Donald Trump is preparing to seek a second term in office next year.
Modi’s show a year later at Wembley, Britain , was even a bigger success. The Wall Street Journal reported it ‘live’. Here is the curtain raiser of November 23, 2015:
“The Show Begins
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is in the U.K. for an action-packed three-day visit.
He’s already addressed Parliament and met Queen Elizabeth II.
But arguably the biggest event of his trip is his appearance in a few hours at Wembley Stadium.
The audience has started to fill up the stadium’s 90,000 seats and despite the threatened rain, everyone appears in good spirits.
We’ll live blog you through the event, which is being billed as an Olympic-style show in Mr. Modi’s honor.
Enjoy the show.”
Pepping up the audiences was singer Kailash Kher. And Modi was chaperoned by then British Prime Minister David Cameron.
It remains to be seen if Imran Khan will ‘emulate’ Modi and if he will strive to do better – in attracting the crowds.