Clash avoided at community meet planning to welcome Modi

modiNEW YORK: The start was savory and the end could have been unpleasant but the sagacity and the commonsense displayed by the organizing group and the community leaders at large brought about a unified sense of purpose at the end for according a handsome welcome to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi who is coming to New York on September 28.

The TV Asia auditorium here on Saturday afternoon was the meeting place for a plan of action to accord a grand reception to PM Narendra Modi when he visits New York. The first ever meet of this type was organized not by any particular organization but by a group of “volunteers” coordinated by Dr Bharat Barai, a prominent oncologist from Indiana and a former head of the Federation of Indian Associations (FIA) Chicago.

The Auditorium was full with over 250 community members representing various groups and interests. One of the reasons upsetting some members was that even while the proposed reception was taking place in New York-New Jersey areas, the Tri-state community leaders were not taken into full confidence. The members of the volunteer group that is supposed to organize the reception for PM was also not fully representative of the Indian community per se, it was pointed out.

Dr Bharat Barai, the “Lead Volunteer,” sought to clarify that all efforts were made and are being made to invite all those who want to work in different committees. This was the first meeting seeking input from the community. Besides, all efforts were being made to include “volunteers” from different parts of the country. Besides, to dub this event as a Tri- state affair was not right as it was a national affair for the Indian American community.

No sooner had he finished his welcome address, Ankur Vaidya, president of Federation of Indian Associations (FIA) for New York and New Jersey stood up and pointedly asked Dr Barai “who gave you the authority to lead the community event. Show us something in writing before you proceed.”

The no-holds-barred meet took a different turn with a few senior community leaders coming on the podium making their appeal to the community to stay united. Dr Barai kept his cool and pointed out that “the event was for all of us as Indians and that those who feel differently may chalk out their own action plan”.

At this stage members of the audience showed cleavage with a large majority supporting the Volunteers group and coordinators and the others opposing. But a huge majority indicated their preference with Dr Barai and the group that hosted the meet and that proved to be a turning point.

Chandrakant Patel, president of the Overseas Friends of BJP when asked as to why there was no mention of OFBJP replied “this is not a show of the OFBJP. It is a show of unity of the Indian community and as many as 200 people from all communities would be included in the committees.”

Shalli Kumar, a community activist and an entrepreneur from Chicago was against Dr Barai hijacking the event. He had earlier indicated that Consul General was inclined for setting up a new committee. He was of the opinion that if the all-inclusive committee is not formed and the community is not taken into confidence, the event may prove a failure.

Indian Consul General in New York Dyaneshwar Mulay drove down to the auditorium and explained the official position with regard to the reception event. The intervention by the Consul General was quite soothing and it clearly gave the message to the groups at loggerheads to make it a real community event by sinking their personal differences and working together.

He asserted that it was a totally community affair and there was no government patronage to it.

He also clarified that he had not indicated or said to anybody that he intended to dissolve the present Volunteer Committee or set up a new committee. “We would play a supporting role only,” he said and expected all the members to work together
In a message to the community CG asked them not to fight for position “as we all are volunteers, including Dr Barai” who indicated that he was not even inclined to be on the podium. The CG said, “We have to follow the simple principle – no prominence to any one person. Only the Prime Minister will be on the dais.”

Many were of the view that the event will not only be successful but there would not be enough tickets to get entry into event.

Sunil Suryawanshi, president Bruhan Maharashtra Mandal, said he was impressed with Barai’s patience and how he handled things. He (Dr Barai) was respectful throughout and that comes only after someone who has worked for long time in public life.

“Sincerely appreciate what you are doing for the community in USA. I will be able to reach out to 75000 Marathi folks in USA, and will spread the message about Narendrabhai. I can help you with IT aspect,” he assured the Volunteer committee members.

While the Indian-American community hoped to accord a grand reception to Modi at a venue that can accommodate between 60,000 and 80,000 people, the two most desired venues – Yankee Stadium in New York that can accommodate over 60,000 people, and Giants Stadium in New Jersey with a seating capacity of 80,000 – are already booked for the last week of September, when Modi would be in the US.

That leaves the Madison Square Garden which has a capacity of 20,000 which is far below the expected turn out of the people wanting to see and hear PM Modi. And according to sources, the application for the venue is under process and will be bestowed a favorable consideration.

India Post News Service

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