With Narendra Modi arriving in Abu Dhabi on Sunday to begin the first UAE visit by an Indian PM in 34 years, embassy officials and community leaders are going all out to ensure that the Gulf connect, especially the Dubai leg on Monday, leaves an indelible impact on the lakhs of Indians living in this “mini-India”.
Guided and supported by the BJP, with leaders such as Ram Madhav making multiple visits to oversee arrangements, the plan to project the PM includes the near simultaneous translations on popular local Indian FM channels of Modi’s speech, expected to be delivered in Hindi, to around 52,000 people at the Dubai cricket stadium.
The UAE alone has 2.6 million Indians, nearly 30 per cent of the country’s population, and there are several Malayalam, Tamil and Hindi FM stations operating in the seven emirates. While Modi’s outreach to the diaspora is being organised by the Indian Community Welfare Committee, the BJP’s overseas arms are expected to be involved behind the scenes.
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Sources said the Indian government will not be involved financially in organising the event. “Chairs have been placed everywhere except on the cricket pitch. Money is not a problem here. Indians here are willing to shell out money for good causes,” an embassy official said.
Billionaire B R Shetty, CEO and managing director of the Abu Dhabi-based New Medical Centre Group of Companies and the UAE Exchange, is one of the forces behind the massive Dubai event. Madhav had worked behind the scenes earlier too, to ensure the smooth organisation of Modi’s Madison Square Garden event in New York, and those in Sydney and Shanghai.
Hit 96.7, a Malayalam FM channel run by the UAE government’s Arabian Radio Network has been roped in for the event. “Normally the government here doesn’t encourage people to gather. This is going to be a rare occasion. The UAE government is going out of the way. We have heard only positive things from them about how to help,” the embassy official said.
Registration for the Dubai event, through a dedicated website http://www.namoindubai.ae, was closed days ago but with complaints mounting, it resumed on Saturday. Organisers are planning to put up a second venue near the stadium to accommodate a few thousands more.
A stage could also be put up there, with sources saying that Modi could step out of the stadium after his speech and enter the second venue to greet the crowd. Over 200 buses will ferry attendees from various metro stations in Dubai. Desert air-conditioning, which is used to cool huge open areas and tents, are being arranged day in advance to cool down the stadium and the area outside where giant TV screens have been put up.
Organisers said the diaspora here is different from what Modi has addressed across the world – be it the US, China, Germany or Canada.
“We are not like Indians in other countries. We are not citizens of this country. We all have to go back one day. So unlike the diaspora in other countries, we are keenly watching the developments in India as it affects us. We send back more money than any other diaspora,” K Kumar, member of the organising committee, told The Indian Express.
There are no tickets for attending the event. “The profile of the Indians here is different. There are lakhs of blue collar workers. We wanted to ensure that anybody who wanted to see the Prime Minister gets a chance,” Kumar said, adding that the organisers got only just a fortnight’s notice to prepare for the event.