Skip to main content

Namaste Trump? Modi's one upmanship key to 'welcoming' US President in Ahmedabad

By RK Misra*
What is common between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and American President Donald Trump? A king size ego, giant size events and an obsession with walls that separate rather than bridges that bind!
Modi’s Gujarat is fond of comparing his brainchild, the Statue of Unity (SoU) as being twice as high as America’s Statue of Liberty. Again, Houston’s ‘Howdy Modi” last year should be both outclassed and outnumbered two to one in the ‘Namaste President Trump’ at Ahmedabad.
If the US President is building a 576-mile wall, costing $20 million a mile, to fence off his country from Mexico, the civic body in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s home state of Gujarat is at work building a wall of its own too. Only that this one is to keep the slums of his model state out of Trump’s sight.
Then again, the Trump extravaganza is the inaugural event at the 1.10 lakh capacity, biggest stadium in the world built at a cost over Rs 800 crore. It is unlike anything that the US may have and carries the distinct imprint of the Indian prime minister’s thought process.
The government-both Centre and Gujarat- are pulling out all stops to ensure a one of it’s kind experience to US President Donald Trump in his re-election year when he visits Ahmedabad for three hours on February 24.A local newspaper has calculated the expenditure being incurred on the three hour visit at around Rs 115 crores or Rs 64 lakh a minute or a lakh per second.
If on the one hand, the head honchos of India’s corporate world are being lined up to mark presence at the world’s biggest 1.10 lakh capacity Motera stadium, on the other slums are being ordered evicted or put behind concrete walls to ensure a feel good for the distinguished visitor.
The US President and his wife Melanie begin their two day India visit from Ahmedabad on February 24 and  shall proceed from the airport to the Sabarmati ashram which was a key centre piece of Mahatma Gandhi’s struggle for India’s independence. Thereafter, accompanied by Prime Minister Narendra Modi they shall take part in an almost 20 km long mega road show that will lead them to the Motera stadium for an inaugural function replete with Indian corporate czars and cultural programmes.
The ‘kem chho Trump” later re-named as “Namaste President Trump” to give it a national appeal is a follow-up of the ‘Howdy Mody’ attended by Trump at Houston last year. Trump is on record stating that Modi has told him that millions will line up to greet him.
However, Gujarat’s three hours of American glory is a logistics nightmare for the state’s bureaucracy. With an advance party overseeing the security of US President Donald Trump laying down guidelines, the Gujarat administration is stretched to its sinews in compliance.
This is more so because Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi wants the stadium packed to the brim of its 1.10 lakh capacity and the roads en-route to be lined thick and deep. Not one to leave anything to chance, he will be in his home state a night earlier to review preparations.
Over 2,000 buses have been requisitioned to put together the required numbers from all over the state, a journey that needs anywhere from one to eight hours of overnight travelling time to reach Ahmedabad at 7 am and then walk to the venue.
Since no food items, not even water will be allowed to be carried inside the stadium, arrangements have been made for 7 lakh water cups, 3 lakh buttermilk tetrapacks, a 25- bed hospital, a hundred toilets and lakhs of caps carrying ”Namaste President Trump” logo to be worn by the crowd.
In fact, invitations have gone out to a galaxy of corporate czars including Mukesh Ambani,Ratan Tata, Kumar Mangalam Birla, Gautam Adani, Sudhir Mehta, A.M.Naik, Pankaj Patel with 6,000 seats reserved for Indian trade and industry.
The downside of this event and road show is that all business establishments including shops and eateries along the route have been ordered shut for the duration of the visit and residents of residential enclaves directed to remain indoors.
The larger area of the US president’s route will witness an almost total shut down. 
Trump comes looking for votes of expat Indians in an election year and we involve ourselves in the politics of another country
Those who would like to greet the passing President must submit copies of their aadhar card and mobile numbers duly verified by a bonafide office-bearer of the enclave which will then be exchanged for a police pass to be worn round the neck.
People lining up on the route as well as those attending the Motera stadium event have been strictly warned not to wear black or carry anything remotely resembling the colour ,not even handkerchiefs or dupattas as those sporting such apparel (construed as colour of protest) will not be permitted. The 25,000 police officers and men mobilised for the visit have been particularly warned to look out for any signs of protest.
The inordinately high expenditure being incurred on the event and the total exclusion of opposition leaders has understandably stirred up a hornets nest. The Ministry of External Affairs only added fuel to fire when it stated that the event was being organized by a ‘Donald Trump Public Felicitation Committee’.
Until February 20 there had been no signs of any panel nor any digital footprints with the government- both centre and state- directly in the picture. A day later the name of the Ahmedabad mayor Bijal Patel surfaced as its head. Speculation was rife that this was a way to avoid any scrutiny of the inordinately high and haphazard expenses being incurred.
Congress spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala was quick to question the origins of the group. When was the invitation extended to the US President and accepted? Why is President Trump then saying that you have promised him a grand event with seven million people? Why is the Gujarat government spending Rs 120 crores for a three hour event organized by an unknown private entity?
Former chief minister and Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Shankersinh Vaghela calls it a waste of public money that would be better spent on building schools ,colleges and hospitals. ”He comes looking for votes of expat Indians in an election year and we involve ourselves in the politics of another country. Will this ensure a change in US visa policy towards Indians?, highly unlikely”.
For now, Modi seems least bothered, with his one-upmanship set for full display. Earlier Chinese President X Jinping, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have been feted in Ahmedabad.
It is his show of strength to the US President ,says a BJP leader. ”Then why not do it in Delhi which is the country’s capital”, counters the Congress opposition. “Is it not ironic that the man who made Gujarati pride his election plank all the time is subjecting his own people to such ignominy in their own land just to impress a foreign head of state. What does this show’, asks another former chief minister. He sure has a point.
In an unprecedented move, perhaps for the first time in the history of the state the annual budget session of the Gujarat Vidhan Sabha is being postponed from February 24 to 26 to facilitate a foreign dignitary's visit !
---
*Senior Gujarat-based journalist. Blog: Wordsmiths & Newsplumbers

Comments

TRENDING

Tracing roots of Hindutva Zionism: cannon fodder for 'warped' nationalist pretensions

By Shamsul Islam*  Those who believe in a world free of hegemonic ethno-nationalism, racism, religious bigotry and hatred have rightly taken note of Zionism and its ally Christian Zionism, major perpetrators of ethnic cleansing of ‘Others’. However, the civilized world with its core belief in multi-culturalism and peaceful co-existence is oblivious to a no less dangerous threat to the present human civilization: the Hindutva Zionism. As the term reads it is part of the Hindutva world-view which stands for an exclusive Hindu India minus Muslims and Christians. The other religions like Sikhism, Buddhism, and Jainism will have no independent status but treated as part of Hinduism. The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS; National Volunteer Organization) is the most prominent flag-bearer of the Hindutva politics whose cadres presently rule India, the largest democracy in the world. RSS was founded by Keshav Baliram Hedgewar (1889-1940) in 1925 who was disillusioned with the Indian freedom st

'Blatant violation' of law by Central government in making NREGA payments

By Our Representative  In September third week, NREGA workers across the country were mobilised for two day so raise their issues and submit a memorandum to the Prime Minister. Organised the NREGA Sangharsh Morcha (NSM), a collective of groups that work with NREGA labourers across the country, workers from 13 states -- Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Odisha, Rajasthan, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal -- carried out Kaam Do Abhiyaan, staging demonstrations and rallies against what they called blatant violation of law by the Central government in making NREGA payments. While NREGA has had very positive impacts, it has lately become fruitless, exploiting labour, even though workers who have put in honest hard work have to wait for their wages endlessly, it was suggested.  In such a situation, there is a need to firm up NREGA implementation and end systematic corruption to ensure that workers get their basic NREGA entit

Shocking? No Covid vaccine trials conducted on pregnant, lactating women: RTI reply

By Rosamma Thomas*  A Right to Information applicant who sought details of safety trials conducted in India on pregnant and lactating women for three Covid vaccines in use in India – Covishield, Covaxin and ZyCov-D -- was shocked to learn from the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO) that Serum Institute, manufacturer of Covishield, and Cadila Healthcare, manufacturer of the ZyCov-D vaccine, had not sought permission for such trials.  Bharat Biotech, manufacturer of Covaxin, had sought permission for trial on pregnant women and later withdrawn its application. This response , provided after the applicant was initially unsatisfied with the response and went in appeal, is from the joint drugs controller, CDSCO. It was dated September 13, 2022. One researcher closely following the vaccine rollout, however, is of the opinion that the lack of a trial on pregnant and lactating women is a blessing; potential trial participants and their unborn babies thus escaped harm. Aruna Ro

Fascism on prowl? Religious meet 'deeply pained' at silence of Church, bishops, priests

Counterview Desk  The ‘Forum of Religious for Justice and Peace’which held its 17th National Convention at the Montfort Social Institute, Hyderabad, Telangana from 22 to 24 September 2022 on the theme “Deepening our Identity as Religious: Responding to the Signs of the Times”, has expressed concern “at the deteriorating situation of our nation on every front”, especially stating, “Fascism seems to have come to stay” in India. At the same time, the convention, which took place with the participation of 60 persons from 16 states representing 20 religious congregations, in its unanimously-adopted statement added, “We have reached abysmal depths on every parameter: be it social, economic and political”, underlining, “The poor in India become poorer every day; the rich and powerful continue to profiteer at their expense and amass scandalous amounts of wealth.” Text: We, members (63 women and men Religious, from 16 states representing 20 Congregations) of the Forum of Religious for Justice

Rajasthan cops 'halt' Gujarat Dalit women's rally: homage to untouchability victim boy

By Our Representative  In a surprise move, the Rajasthan police stopped a Dalit women's rally from Gujarat on the borders after it crossed Gujarat alleging that it would "disturb peace" in village Surana, Jalore district, where the gruesome incident of death of a Dalit boy took place on August 13 after he was brutally beaten up by his teacher on touching the drinking water pot. Sources said, while the Gujarat government had "no objection" in allowing the rally, which originated from the Dalit Shakti Kendra (DSK), an empowerment-cut-technical institute for teens founded by human rights leader Martin Macwan, on September 24 morning, the Rajasthan police stopped it for two and a half hours before allowing it to proceed to Surana. The decision to take out a women's rally was taken at a DSK meeting on September 5 following a condolence meeting of the NGO Navsarjan Trust, also founded by Macwan, activists committed to work against caste-based discrimination, orga

Introducing non-native cheetahs is 'not equivalent' to restoring pride in the nation

By Bappaditya Mukhopadhyay*  The Cheetahs from the African continent has finally been introduced to India by the Indian Prime Minister on his 72nd birthday. The process had started with the previous Government in 2009. However, the Supreme Court clearance was pending owing to the objection by the National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) plea to reintroduce cheetahs. Finally the clearance was obtained in January 2020 and thereafter Kuno National Park (KNP) was chosen for the reintroduction of first set of Southeast African Cheetahs. In the near future, depending upon the success story of the current reintroduction, more cheetahs from South Africa may also be introduced. This exercise has generated a lot of interest among various stakeholders with opinions on both sides galore. It is important to pose some questions that surround the whole exercise. Let us evaluate some of these arguments. The first set of arguments are quite detached from the issues of conservation as they most

Buddhist shrines were 'massively destroyed' by Brahmanical rulers: Historian DN Jha

Nalanda mahavihara By Our Representative Prominent historian DN Jha, an expert in India's ancient and medieval past, in his new book , "Against the Grain: Notes on Identity, Intolerance and History", in a sharp critique of "Hindutva ideologues", who look at the ancient period of Indian history as "a golden age marked by social harmony, devoid of any religious violence", has said, "Demolition and desecration of rival religious establishments, and the appropriation of their idols, was not uncommon in India before the advent of Islam".

'Military diplomacy': US praises Bangladesh Army for leadership role in UN operations

By Kamal Uddin Mazumder* As the Indo-Pacific region represents the world’s economic and strategic center of gravity, the Indian Ocean today is becoming the centerpiece of all geo-strategic play. Cooperation in the region is crucial to implementing the international community’s global agenda, including achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Major powers like the US have enhanced and deepened their strategic engagement and leadership roles with countries in the region. The Indo-Pacific Army Management Seminar, or IPAMS, is a U.S. Army Pacific (USARPAC) initiated conference that is aimed at facilitating and enhancing interactions among the armies of the Indo-Pacific region. This year's 46th Indo-Pacific Armies Management Seminar (IPAMS)-2022, co-hosted by the Bangladesh Army and US Army Pacific (USARPAC), concluded in Dhaka. The objective of IPAMS is to promote peace and stability in the region through mutual understanding, dialogue, and friendship. It is the largest confer

Grave error? Scholar blames ex-Gujarat babu for anti-Christian riots 'citing fake report'

By Rajiv Shah  A few days back, I received a message from one of the finest former Gujarat government bureaucrats, PG Ramrakhiani, a 1964 batch IAS official, who retired in November 2000. I would often interact with him in 1997-99, even later, after I was sent to Gandhinagar as a Times of India man to cover Sachivalaya. Those were turbulent times. Shankarsinh Vaghela was the Gujarat chief minister, under attack from two sides – from the BJP, which he had left to form a separate breakaway party, Rashtriya Janata Party (RJP), one one hand, and the Congress, which was supporting him from outside, on the other. Ramrakhiani, in his message, referred to the book authored by Ghanshyam Shah and Jan Breman, both top-notch scholars who have known Gujarat in and out. Called “Gujarat, Cradle and Harbinger of Identity Politics: India’s Injurious Frame of Communalism”, I reviewed the book in January 2022.  It claims that Muslims in Gujarat have been turned into “new untouchables”, thanks to the Hin

Swami Vivekananda's views on caste and sexuality were 'painfully' regressive

By Bhaskar Sur* Swami Vivekananda now belongs more to the modern Hindu mythology than reality. It makes a daunting job to discover the real human being who knew unemployment, humiliation of losing a teaching job for 'incompetence', longed in vain for the bliss of a happy conjugal life only to suffer the consequent frustration.