Gujarati-American associations have become well-known for keeping an empty seat on the podium during their functions. This is their symbolic protest against the US government’s refusal to provide Narendra Modi a visa. At larger Gujarati-American meetings, Modi’s presence via a satellite linkup and a large video screen is not uncommon.
But it is a sign of how much support Modi has within the community.
Shekhar Tiwari, a founder of the Overseas Friends of the BJP, says, “Modi’s victory is a win for economic development. He took a line from Chandrababu Naidu but where Naidu eventually lost, he continues to win.”
Unsurprisingly, pockets of Gujarati-Americans celebrated Modi’s victory across the US. Most of these were in restaurants in Indian-American ghettoes like Jackson Heights in New York City or Tampa in Florida. Others were in residences of prominent Gujarati-Americans.
Says Bharat Barai, a prominent Midwestern doctor and trustee of the Federation of Indian American Associations, “Modi worked very hard for economic uplift. He has been unfairly maligned. Everyone regrets (the 2002 riots) but Modi had nothing to do with them.”
Many Asian-American organisations stayed neutral. In part because the results were announced in India in the middle of the night in the US.
However, Modi had many detractors in the community, especially among academics.
The vast blog universe has had a no-holds barred debate about Modi for years. His online supporters tend to be defensive about the riots and point to his economic record.
Senthilraja’s blog, for example, says, “I believe, that Modi’s efficient administration was one of the main catalyst for such astonishing growth.” When the riots are raised, the response has been to raise Congress’s role in the anti-Sikh riots in Delhi and, more recently, the communist violence in Nandigram.
Gujaratis are the single-largest component of the community and generally rated the wealthiest. They are key players in three prominent groupings: the hotel owners represented by the Asian American Hotel Owners Association, the medical doctors and the wealthy diamond and jewellery industry.