San Jose in the grip of Modi fever

Prime Minister Narendra Modi gestures before his departure for San Jose, in New York on Saturday.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi gestures before his departure for San Jose, in New York on Saturday.

Visitors landing at Mineta International Airport here this weekend will be left with little doubt that a major public event of relevance to India is happening here, for Indians and Indian-Americans were visible on every concourse and at many street corners throughout the city. By Saturday, they were thronging the neighbourhood of the SAP Center area, the venue for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s community reception.

Organisers of the events in the heart of Silicon Valley hinted that it would rival said last year’s show at New York City’s Madison Square Garden.

Congress members line up to greet

At least 13 members of the U.S. Congress would be in attendance for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s community reception in the heart of Silicon Valley on Saturday.

They include Indian-American Representative Ami Bera and Congress’s only Hindu member Representative Tulsi Gabbard. Other heavyweights from the U.S. House of Representatives who will greet Mr. Modi and join the celebrations with 18,500 Indian-Americans include Democratic Party Leader Nancy Pelosi, and members Jim McDermott, Dana Rohrabacher, Ed Royce, Sheila Jackson-Lee, Pete Sessions, Loretta Sanchez, George Holding, Eric Swalwell, John Garamendi and Jerry McNerney.

Commenting on the broader sense of anticipation surrounding Sunday’s mega-reception, Naren Gupta and Chandru Bhambra, co-chairs of the organising group, the Indo-American Community of West Coast, said that Mr. Modi had “set an ambitious agenda for India including Smart Cities, Digital India, [and] renewable energy, [and recognised] that these goals can be achieved only through innovation and that there is no better place to see innovation at work than Silicon Valley.”

Indeed the Prime Minister’s tightly-packed agenda while on this leg of his U.S. tour includes a visit to Tesla Motors to discuss their battery technology for the storage of solar energy, Indian government officials said, and the similar theme of clean energy will find echoes in a conversation that the Indian side will conduct with U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz at a roundtable organised on Sunday by the U.S. Department of Commerce and Stanford University.

Some voices of protests appeared to gather steam even as the excitement for Mr. Modi’s welcome grew.

The Alliance for Justice and Accountability announced on Saturday that it would organise a protest rally in close proximity of the SAP Centre as the celebrations continued inside, and in a press statement said, “AJA members will be sharing inconvenient facts about Modi's record that his PR team wants to hide — on the environment, religious rights, civil rights, women's rights, LGBTQ equality, the safety of Dalit and adivasi communities, and beyond.”

Over the past week AJA has also been running a billboard initiative as part of its “#ModiFail campaign,” in a bid to “raise public awareness about [Mr.] Modi and his administration's attacks on personal freedoms and human rights in India.”

Numerous billboards were visible from in the Bay Area locales of Oakland, Daly City, Hayward, Newark, Milpitas, and Santa Clara, which AJA members said call attention to Mr. Modi’s “most egregious failures during his 16 months in office as Prime Minister.”

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Printable version | Sep 19, 2022 3:59:41 pm |