Wearing a ‘Namaste Trump’ hat, Piruz Khambhatta, chairman and managing director of Rasna Pvt Ltd and chairman of the CII task force on Ease of Doing Business, sat on the front row of the Platinum enclosure — the premium gallery at Motera stadium that provided an up-close view of the stage where Prime Minister Narendra Modi, US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania would arrive.
Like most in this gallery, he was in a suit. Like some of them, he took the coat off as the wait got longer and the sun got stronger.
“I drank three packs of lassi…I brought a bottle of Rasna but couldn’t get it inside (because of security reasons), and I don’t blame them,” said Khambhatta.
The “1,25,000 beating hearts”, as Trump addressed the crowd, comprised top officials in the Central and state government, business leaders, NRIs, students, and people from 13 districts of Gujarat and some from outside the state.
The chairman of Sabarmati River Front Development Corporation Ltd Keshav Varma sported a hat and held a pair of binoculars. “I watched the enthusiastic crowd, the energy, the sheer positivity …the warmth between our PM and Mr Trump, the mutual respect and admiration. It was good fun,” he said.
Before the Trumps came in, people with the Platinum passes were seen taking selfies. Some were also seen clicking pictures with NSA Ajit Doval, Gujarat chief secretary Anil Mukim and DGP Shivanand Jha.
While those in the platinum gallery received water bottles and packs of lassi and buttermilk, the over one lakh people in the regular stands did not get them. And, after waiting in the heat for five hours ahead of Trump’s scheduled arrival, many were seen leaving as the US President spoke.
“It is very hot outside so we are sitting here in the shade. What is worse is that there is no water facility. We have been sitting in the sun and it became so unbearable at a point that we left in between,” said Prabhaben Parmar, who came from Vadodara.
The water campers were placed outside the stadium, making it almost out of reach for those seated inside.
The seating arrangement at the stadium was done district-wise and audience from each district had an entry pass of a specific colour, said a senior government official.
There were separate sections for special invitees — the platinum and gold card holders. While the regular stands were packed, nearly half of the chairs on the gold section remained empty. Explaining the empty chairs, a BJP leader said it was a Monday and added, “People like NRIs were to sit there. They must have shifted to a cooler portion of the stadium.” Some like Madhubhai Patel, a senior citizen from Chicago, braved the heat and sat through. Representing the Bhartiya Senior Citizen of Chicago, an organisation that he claimed has 1,500 members, Patel said, “I had attended the Howdy Modi event too and today I am here for Namaste Trump.”
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines