An aerial view of yet-to-be-completed Motera cricket stadium in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, where the Namaste Trump event to honour US president takes place on Feb 24, 2020
One great thing about US President Donald Trump is that he can be brutally frank. Trump recently picked up the phone and called British PM Boris Johnson to convey his displeasure over the latter’s decision to allow Huawei to operate in the UK despite Washington’s repeated urgings not to touch the Chinese tech-company.
Washington even threatened that London would be expelled from the Five Eyes (intelligence-sharing arrangement between US, Canada, UK, Australia and New Zealand) if it had anything to do with 5G developed in China.
But Johnson stuck to his guns — rightly so, since post-Brexit British economy hopes to get substantial blood transfusion from China to sustain its future growth and prosperity.
Whereupon, Trump slammed the phone and abruptly ended the conversation. Johnson has since postponed indefinitely his planned visit to Washington.
Therefore, Trump’s frank remarks about his forthcoming India visit on February 24-25 should not come as surprise. In response to a query from the media, he said on Tuesday,
“Well, we can have a trade deal with India, but I’m really having the big deal for later on. We’re doing a very big trade deal with India. We’ll have it. I don’t know if it’ll be done before the election, but we will have a very big trade deal with India.”
“We’re not treated very well by India, but I happen to like Prime Minister Modi a lot. And he told me he’ll have 7 million [70 lakhs] people between the airport and the event. And the stadium, I understand, is sort of semi under construction, but it’s going to be the largest stadium in the world. So it’s going to be very exciting. But he says between the stadium and the airport, we’ll have about 7 million people. So it’s going to be very exciting. I hope you all enjoy it.”
There is virtual certainty now that Trump won’t cancel the visit, as he’s wont to doing at the last minute if his attention wanders away to something more exciting.
PM Modi did a smart thing indeed by enticing Trump with the alluring prospect of 70 lakhs people lining up the street from Ahmedabad airport to the newly built Motera Stadium in the city.
What can be more seductive to lure a populist politician than a mass rally? Modi understands Trump well like few people can.
Trump treats politics like a realty show. He is the very antithesis of a cerebral, erudite politician. Ideas don’t matter; words and showmanship is all that matters.
Trump derides intellectuality, has a flair for fake news, speaks untruths freely (even in his state of the union speech), and is a living monument to what Abraham Lincoln once said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
But how come such a hugely successful businessman like Trump can be so naive as to believe that Modi will produce a human chain of 70 lakhs Gujaratis?
Some Indian analysts estimate that something like three lakhs Gujaratis might actually line up to witness the twenty-two km-long Trump-Modi road show on Feb. 24 from the airport after the shankhnad by twenty “trained Brahmins” to Motera Stadium.
Trump would have calculated that even if just about ten percent of what Modi promised actually show up for the road show, that would present a breathtaking spectacle on the TV screen as the images get beamed into the American homes.
The overpowering impression that the spectacle would create in the American public will be that Trump is an immensely popular leader among mankind, contrary to what one half of Americans speak of him.
To be sure, Modi government is leaving no stone unturned. The government hopes to arrange 1.2 lakh people to attend the rally at Motera Stadium. 3,000 buses will be deployed to ferry people from the districts to the stadium.
The state government is expected to spend over Rs 100 crore on road renovation, security cover, cultural shows, decorations, etc. alone to give a fresh look to the Gujarat model of development.
Trump didn’t waffle on the reason why he is coming. He hinted that a trade deal remains elusive. His remarks hinted at some annoyance with Delhi — presumably, for not being more helpful for his America First project or his family’s business interests in India.
But then, he happens to like Modi himself “a lot.” Suffice to say, this visit needs to be seen as a favour he’s showing to Modi, whose invitation once as chief guest on Republic Day he’d turned down.
Trump sounded like the Badshah out to enjoy himself on an exciting hunting trip and is looking forward to much self-gratification, all arranged at no personal cost to himself.
What can the lowly subjects expect in return? In ancient times, the Badshah would have thrown gold coins at the poor people lining the streets.