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HindustanTimes Thu,28 Aug 2014

PM Modi to receive rockstar reception in US

Yashwant Raj , Hindustan Times  Washington, July 16, 2014
First Published: 00:22 IST(16/7/2014) | Last Updated: 02:09 IST(16/7/2014)

Indian Americans are preparing to give Prime Minister Narendra Modi a rockstar reception when he travels to the US at the end of September for the annual UN general assembly.

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The main public reception is likely to be held at an internationally known Manhattan venue that has hosted presidents, sporting events, concerts and a Pope.

Organisers say they will announce the name only after they have finalised the agreement.

Indian prime ministers visiting the US have, in the past, always set aside some time for an interaction with Indian Americans. And it is usually in New York.

But while others have chosen smaller gatherings in places like hotel ballrooms, Modi's meeting will be a grand affair. The Manhattan venue can seat up to around 20,000 people.

Bharat Barai, a Chicago area oncologist asked by the Prime Minister's Office to coordinate the reception, refused to comment. Sources said Barai was chosen on the basis on his decades-long association with Modi and the five video addresses he organised for him.

"The date and time are fixed for September 28, at noon," said one of the organisers who did not want to be identified.

The reception is a community event organised by Indian Americans, many of whom say they are huge fans of the prime minister, but not the BJP.

The event will give them a chance to finally see and meet a man they have so far only connected with through YouTube and live video links beamed into cramped highway hotel rooms.

Work on the reception began the day Prime Minister Modi decided to accept President Barack Obama's invitation, overruling those who advised him against the visit. They wanted Modi to "punish" the United States for denying him a visa in 2005.

Modi's decision set off a race among Indian Americans to organise a reception for the Prime Minster. Organisers of the annual Indian Independence Day parade in New York were interested, but Barai was already on it.

The Prime Minister's Office was clear the reception had to be an inclusive affair and not an event by the Overseas Friends of the BJP or any partisan group.

The reception plan triggered a confrontation at a meeting called last weekend to name an organising committee.

One group keen on organising the event said it got the impression the meeting was called to merely rubber-stamp decisions already taken and make the process look inclusive. The organisers denied the charge.

"Who authorised you to organise this reception?" one of the protesters asked the organisers.

Barai presented a letter from the Indian embassy in his support. The letter was issued to him because the management of the Manhattan venue wanted to know which of the many competing bookings it should consider.


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