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Modi's US trip: Why some NRIs are unhappy about his Madison Square Garden speech

Desis in Amreeka are going all out to make Prime Minister Narendra Modi's maiden visit to the United States of America a very memorable one, according to the Economic Times

The Indian American Community Foundation (IACF) — a newly-floated body comprising 300 US-based organisations with nationalist and Sangh roots — has booked the Madison Square Garden in midtown Manhattan for a whopping $700,000. ET reports that  20,000 tickets for Modi’s appearance have already been sold out. Never before has such a huge event been organised by the 4.2-million strong community in honour of an Indian prime minister.

 Modis US trip: Why some NRIs are unhappy about his Madison Square Garden speech

Prime Minister Narendra Modi. AFP

It is hardly surprising that Indians in the US are making such a big deal about Modi's maiden trip given that it marks a personal triumph for him. Since 2005, the US has denied Narendra Modi a "diplomatic visa", holding him responsible for the 2002 communal riots in Gujarat. And BJP and the Modi-die-hards want to celebrate his entry into the United States, now as the leader of India, no less, in due style.

According to an article in the Sunday Standard, the "$3.5 million event" is being handled by Mumbai-born Gujarati medic Dr Bharat Barai who is also the president of IACF. PMO officials and BJP leaders have been working closely with IACF, as well. Former RSS leader and current BJP general secretary Ram Madhav, who earlier visited the US to coordinate with different groups, will again leave for US in the next few days to oversee arrangements, and to ensure the event takes place without a hitch.

As with all things to do with Modi, the rally has attracted its share of grumbling. Mukesh J Mowji, principal of Silver Creek Hospitality, a hotel development and management company in Silicon Valley and an investor in several IT start-ups, told ET:

"The Madison Square Garden show seems to have been organized more on the lines of a Bollywood extravaganza rather than a significant address by the PM of the world's largest democracy."

A section of investors would also have liked Modi to visit the Silicon Valley and participate in "more important and serious" engagements, the ET report said. Mowji will not attend the "carnival" which will be ironic because as a former chairman of the Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA), he was among those who has invited Modi to the US in 2005 for the organization's annual convention — which triggered the denial of visa.

But there are others who are unhappy not with the event but with IACF's role.  Chicago-based businessman Shalabh Shalli Kumar, founder of the National Indian American Public Policy Institute, a think-tank told ET:

"IACF is a hurriedly put together organization and although there's a full board and executives, it is being run single-handedly by Bharat Barai who is known to be very close to Modi. Initially, there were no ticket sales for this reception, now there is a ticket price of $1,000 per person for reserved seats, of which there are around 1,900. The process is not transparent."

All this carping aside, the Madison Square address promises to be a marquee event. According to the Economic Times report, organizers expect the stadium to be filled to its capacity. A short film called 'India Marching Forward' is planned followed by the PM's arrival at noon. The event will be hosted by the first Indian-origin Miss America, Nina Davuluri.

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Updated Date: Sep 15, 2014 07:31:56 IST