Indo-American community fights over hosting Modi in US

  • Anirudh Bhattacharyya, Hindustan Times, Toronto
  • Updated: Aug 12, 2014 00:49 IST

As the Indian-American community fights over hosting the reception for Prime Minister Narendra Modi in New York next month, the BJP dispatched Ram Madhav to the United States to quell battling egos.

New York’s landmark indoor arena Madison Square Garden has been booked and the community expects to attract as many as 20,000 people to attend the largest-ever gathering for an Indian leader in the US. There are also plans to simulcast the three-hour event scheduled for September 28 in several US cities. As Chandrakant Patel, president of the Overseas Friends of BJP, USA, said, “After the visa denial issue, the diaspora is enthusiastically looking forward to his event. It should be a historic programme.”

The estimated budget for the community’s celebration of Modi’s visit is $1.5 million, which will be raised by donations. The event will be held under the auspices of the newly-formed Indian American Community Foundation, USA. The BJP’s global convenor of overseas chapters, Vijay Jolly, is also expected to be in the US later this month to “mobilise NRIs” for the event.

An event of this scale and nature is a first in the US. Former PM Manmohan Singh attended much smaller gatherings of the community, held in hotels. His predecessor Atal Behari Vajpayee had been felicitated in New York in 2003, at an event at the Jacob Javits Center in midtown Manhattan, which drew a crowd of about 3,000.

However, despite the ambitious plans to welcome Modi, there has been dissension within the ranks, with many community elders from the New York/New Jersey area aggrieved at the responsibility for the event being given over to Illinois-based Bharat Barai, reported to be a friend of Modi. In fact, it was at one preparatory event in New Jersey last month that resentment became public with some community members trying to physically remove Barai from the stage, according to local media.

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