Prime Minister Narendra Modi reached Mongolia on Saturday evening after three days in China but not before leaving in his trail an assembly of hysterical Indians, jumping over each other to take selfies with him and continuing to chant his name long after heft the building.Indians from across China and Hong Kong had gathered for the Saturday afternoon tete-a-tete at Shanghai’s iconic World Expo Centre. The crowd was a mix: Businessmen, traders, housewives, the devout, the retired and students, lots of students.
Modi seemed to have timed Saturday’s interaction perfectly: It was exactly a year before that India had elected him as leader.
“Just a year earlier...you would have been eager to know the results of the elections in India. Everyone asked, who knows Modi outside India. Only people in Gujarat know him. The criticism was correct but the doubt has been proved wrong,” he said to “Modi, Modi” chants.
The recurring motif of his hour-long speech was his rhetorical statements: He asked and the crowd howled in agreement.
“I had said that I will not leave any stone unturned with my hard work. Have I taken any leave? Am I vacationing?” he asked, as the crowd howled ‘no’.
Modi pressed on: “It is my misfortune that I am criticised for working hard. If working hard is a crime, I am prepared to commit that crime for 125 crore Indians.”
Back home, the Congress hit back, saying the PM refuses to come out of election mode and asserted that his “obsession” with targeting the Opposition on foreign soil is “deplorable”. “Verbal character assassination of India’s achievements on foreign soil by Modi is unacceptable and a new low,” party spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala said.
“Indian and China make for 1/3rd of the world’s population. Had we ever earlier thought about the power of these two countries together?” he asked.
“The world is seeing this visit very closely. The President of China welcomed another leader in a place outside Beijing for the first time,” he said. That claim was probably not factually correct as former President Jiang Zemin had invited French President Jacque Chirac to his hometown directly in 2000. But facts were not part of Modi’s rhetoric on Saturday afternoon: His confidence in talking to the Indian diaspora was.