He came, he saw, he conquered!
There was much hype and expectation before Prime Minister Modi’s address at Madison Square Garden. He did not disappoint – only one memory left Madison Square Gardens that afternoon: NaMo!
The Prime Minister is a master strategist and he knew how to appeal to the sentiments of the 20,000 strong Indian Diaspora. He touched on how far away they are from their home land and how well Indian Americans have done for themselves thus giving Indians a good name. He spoke about India’s progress and it no longer being a country of snake charmers. At one point he told a story about a visit he made to Taiwan before he was Chief Minister of Gujarat. An interpreter asked him if Indians still played with snakes. His response was, “India has graduated and now Indians no longer play with snakes but prefer to play with a mouse instead”. With that small snippet he emphasized how far India has come on the road to progress.
His wit was evident all through his hour and a half long speech. The Diaspora cheered loudly when he mentioned how America has people from all over the world, but Indians are all over the world. Ensconced on the revolving stage, he ensured everyone present got a view of him. The speech delivery was spot on. His comments on the bank and the 15 crores deposited in it by the people of India were received with applause. Mention of his humble antecedents as a tea seller who has made it to the national stage tugged at many heartstrings.
Modi also laid out his plans for India. He emphasized his vision is to work for the common man by taking up less grandiose issues. That said, his issues are also large scale. He wants to clean up the Ganga. By Gandhiji’s 150th birthday, in 2019, he wants a clean India. His vision for India when she celebrates 75 years of independence is that each Indian has a home. India’s three strengths of democracy, demographic dividend and demand are three aspects he wants to use advantageously, to create a new India. His remark, “Rickshaws in Ahmedabad cost Rs10 per kilometer but the mission to Mars cost only Rs7 per kilometer”, brought the house down. The crowd hung on to his every word and each pronouncement of his was received with thunderous applause. In a candid moment, he promised he would never do anything to make Indians hang their heads in shame.
Modi urged the Diaspora to come to India and take on projects. Unnecessary red tape and bureaucracy would be done away with. The plan is to ensure applications will be available on smart phones and all permissions will be online. Finally he talked about an issue that plagues every Diaspora Indian: visas, PIO and OCI cards. Loud cheers and much thumping was in evidence when he announced PIO and OCI cards are to be merged and Americans will get visas on arrival. Foreigners will no longer need to register at police stations for extended periods of stay. NaMo told the Diaspora he feels their pain. He understands their issues and it is his desire to make things easier for them.
To resounding applause, he promised to repay the debt he owes everyone who has shown such faith in him: to the Diaspora who stayed up all night to catch the election results. His intention is to create an India of their dreams.
As the balloons came down on the crowd assembled at Madison Square Gardens, there were shouts of Modi and unending applause.
People left the venue euphoric: completely enraptured by the tea seller from India.
There were smiles on their faces and great hope in their hearts.