Just days before Prime Minister Narendra Modi takes the stage at Madison Square Garden, the iconic Manhattan venue in New York, organisers declared it sold out on Wednesday.
Those left out can catch the event online or, if they are up to it, on one of those monster screens at Times Square nearby — the biggest screen around, organisers promised.
The MSG, as Madison Square Garden is known, has hosted rockstars, politicians, boxing matches and a Pope. It can seat 20,000; but 18,000 seats will go free to those who applied.
The rest will be reserved for donors — someone has to pay for the event — and invitees, who could include “several dozen” US lawmakers, who have expressed a desire to attend. They will take a break from their re-election campaigns to be there. A few them had wanted him to address a joint session of US congress, but that didn't work out.
The MSG event is at the heart of Modi’s visit for Indian Americans, many of whom drove long distances once to watch him beamed live into highway hotels.
Modi, as chief minister of Gujarat, was not allowed to visit the US after being denied a visa in 2005 over his government’s alleged failure to stop the 2002 riots. But he stayed in touch with the community — his popularity surged once he was projected by the BJP as its candidate for the post of prime minister — remotely, through live video feed.
Now that he is coming, over 30,000 of them applied to attend the event — coming from all over the country. But only 18,000 can be accommodated, and that’s the ceiling.
The remaining 2,000 seats are set aside for donors and invitees.
Anand Shah, spokesperson for the organisers, said the free tickets were distributed through a network of organisations of Indian Americans.
“We got in touch with about 800 organisations,” Shah said, “of which nearly 700 responded.” The organisers narrowed it down to 400 and allocated them specified number of tickets.
Some tickets will go to those who applied separately — not going through any organisation. And they are being determined by a system of lottery.
Last year’s Miss America, Nina Davuluri, who is of Indian descent, will emcee the event, with PBS Weekend Newshour anchor Hari Sreenivasan.