Howdy Modi: Indian Diaspora Welcomes Modi–Trump Duet

Once again, PM Modi showcased the Indian Diaspora’s influential impact in the West through the ‘Howdy Modi’ mega-event in Houston.

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PM Modi & President Trump

The popularity of Prime Minister Narendra Modi is not a thing to mention, whether it’s his own country or other countries. ‘Howdy Modi’ is a one-of-a-kind event hosted by the Indian diaspora in Houston, Texas, where thousands of Indian-Americans came together to celebrate the re-election of Narendra Modi. Around 50,000 attendees were already registered for the event many days before. It is the first time when any leader of India and various leaders of the US including senators have jointly addressed a rally.

‘Howdy Modi! Shared Dreams, Bright Future’ was the tagline of the Texas India Forum. Houston is the big metropolis in Texas; many prominent business and community leaders from America attended the event. Diversity of Indian American community, the organizers put together a 90-minute cultural programme: ‘Woven—The Indian-American story’ which also featured many short documentaries about the life of people living in the US with Indian heritage. It is not the first time when he has been able to grab the attention abroad, he has previously addressed a similar rally at Madison Square Garden in New York and SAP Centre in San Jose.

Indian Diaspora has a significant impact on the political and economic influence in the host nations. The Indian Diaspora (including NRIs and person with Indian heritage) is estimated to be around 30 million. Of which, maximum can be found in the Anglo-American world, the Gulf and former colonies of the British Empire. Within the US, Texas, Illinois and California are the states which host a large section of Indian-American communities. Needless to mention, Houston is one of the top 10 American states to host them as it is the 4th largest trading partner with India.

Strengthening US and India’s Relations

‘Howdy Modi!’ turned out to be a comparatively light event as there were no major announcements made but it definitely represented the harmonious relations of the US and India.

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When Trump and Modi both in their speeches mentioned how they both are planning on making their countries grow together, there was a beautiful peaceful scene with PM Modi and Trump passing through the stadium hand-in-hand waving towards people.

According to the New York Times, this rally brought together two leaders with similar styles. As both the leaders have portrayed themselves as the only leader in their respective countries to make it ‘great again’, they fought against entrenched establishments. PM Modi and Trump have polarizing figures among the people they lead. As PM Modi is supported by millions in the country and also criticized by some and has been called an autocrat for making India a Hindu Nation.

Both even have similarities regarding the immigrants. Trump even mentioned in this speech about how he is willing to take care of Americans, Indian-Americans and other Minorities but will not pour benefits to illegal migrants. He said, ‘To keep countries safe, we must protect borders’. NRC in Assam is one call of India against the migrants who came to this country mainly from Bangladesh when there was freedom war around 40 years ago. Recently, around 1.9 million people have been excluded from the citizen’s list.

Trump claims that the relation of the US with India is now stronger than ever before and, in his tenure, the unemployment of the Indian-American community has dropped by 33 per cent. He appreciated the presence of Indian origin in America by saying, ‘Indian-Americans enrich our culture and uplift our values’. Not only did he praise the community, but he also appreciated PM Modi for successfully lifting 300 million people in poverty in India.

Protest infront of NRG Stadium

Modi started his speech with a line which won many hearts in the stadium: ‘Mr President, you had introduced me to your family in 2017, today I have the honour of introducing my family to you’. Once again, Modi proved himself as one of the great orators of all time when he appreciated the crowd by replying ‘Howdy Modi’ (How are you, Modi) by saying, ‘If you ask me, Howdy Modi’, then the answer is  ‘Everything is fine in India’ in different languages representing the diverse culture of India. He added, ‘Diversity is the foundation of our vibrant democracy. His speech was later followed by his mention of various achievements in the country like opening various bank accounts, higher voter percentage of youth and women in 2019 and digitalizing India. He said, “Data is the new oil and Data is the new Gold”; he claimed that data is the cheapest in India costing less than 25–30 cents for 1GB’.

Goal of the Trip

The ultimate goal of the mega event #HowdyModi was revealed in the first short speech of PM Modi when he said, ‘AbkiBaar Trump Sarkar’, which received a huge round of applause. Upcoming elections in 2020 in the US are going to be a big affair and Trump wants to woo as many people as he can. Indian-American is one of the electoral minorities. Though Texas had gone for Trump in 2016, his approval number has been the worst compared to others from then. According to a Washington Post article, only 45 per cent of Texans approve of Trump. By going to Houston, Trump hopes to increase his vote share as he now expects that Modi’s fan would vote for him. But, it is a no hidden truth that may be Indian diaspora have favoured BJP’s policy in India but remain wary of US president’s anti-immigration rhetoric. According to exit polls conducted by Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, 84 per cent of Indian origin voters chose Clinton in 2016. Definitely Trump wants to increase the share and save a seat for himself. Trump is definitely worried about the elections. According to a report in The New York Times on 17 September this year, ‘Mini Deals’ with India and Japan would help Trump to overcome concerns about his trade approach before 2020 elections, hence proving that he is devoted to negotiating bilateral trade deals in America’s favour.

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CROWD—Some Cheers, Some Protests

Many human rights organizations drew around 15,000 people in counter-rallies outside the stadium, aimed at alleged human rights violation in Kashmir and Assam. Mohammed Nasrullah, of the International Humanitarian Foundation, told Al Jazeera that this rally is to create awareness about the atrocities that are going on in India.

UN Human Rights Chief Michelle Bachelet said that she is deeply concerned about the recent actions by the Indian government in Kashmir. These protests were not covered by media but many videos can be seen on twitter with the #gobackmodi.

The event, even though not followed by heavy trade package could still be considered for political symbolism.