US President Donald Trump is looking forward to bathing in mass adulation at one of the world’s largest stadiums, during a packed two-day visit to India.
In contrast to the protests and icy handshakes he’s often received on other foreign trips, Trump is expected to receive a warm embrace from India’s ideologically aligned Prime Minister Narendra Modi, complete with a massive rally soon after his arrival.
After hosting Modi at a “Howdy Modi” rally in Houston last year that drew 50,000 people, Modi will return the favour with a “Namaste Trump” rally at the world’s largest cricket stadium in the city of Ahmedabad.
Modi “told me we’ll have 7 million people between the airport and the event,” Trump said to reporters on Tuesday, then raised the anticipated number to 10 million when he mentioned the trip during a Thursday night rally. Indian authorities expect closer to 100,000.
As he left the White House on Sunday for the flight to India, the upcoming spectacle was on the president’s mind again: “I hear it’s going to be a big event. Some people say the biggest event they’ve ever had in India. That’s what the prime minister told me – this will be the biggest event they’ve ever had.”
Trump’s motorcade will travel amid cheers from carefully picked and screened Modi loyalists and workers from his Bharatiya Janata Party.
Tanvi Madan, a senior fellow and director of The India Project at the Brookings Institution said Trump is likely to get a king’s welcome from a country well-rehearsed in the art of adulation.
A half-million people gathered to hear President Dwight D. Eisenhower speak in 1959; former President Jimmy Carter had a village named after him – Carterpuri.
“In some ways, American presidents go to India to feel loved,” said Madan. She predicted Trump would receive an even grander welcome because the Indians recognise it’s something Trump expects and that could keep them in his good graces.
“It’s not about him, per se, for them. It is the US relationship for India is crucial,” she said.