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Modi’s charm offensive at Madison Square Garden

Prime Minister Narendra Modi took the three-million-strong Indian community in the US by storm, straddling generations, ethnicities and educational attainments. Speaking at the Madison Square Garden and earlier at a concert at the Central Park, he flagged a range of issues, addressing not just the followers of yoga but also those who are more familiar with Yoda, a prominent character in the Star Wars series, when he told young people listening to him at the music concert: “May the Force be with you,” evoking loud cheers.

He said India has three qualities that no other nation in the world does: Democracy, the demographic dividend, and demand. He said given time, India would become the biggest supplier of workforce to the world. A massive skill development programme has been launched to ensure not just that people get trained so that get jobs at the first shot, but also that they create more jobs. “There was a time when our country was known as one abounding in snakes and snake charmers. Now, young people in India play with a mouse,” he said and brought the house down.

For those looking for some announcements relating to liberalisation, growth, etc, Modi had only one point to make: He had scrapped obsolete laws and would be happiest if one law was scrapped every day. For the most part, his speech was about how the poor of India had to be taken out of poverty. He referred to the PM’s Jan-Dhan programme and a plan to provide a house to everyone. “I have small dreams but I want to motivate people to do big things,” he said, adding that a swachh Bharat (clean India) would be a big priority of this government.

Exuding confidence especially in the young, Modi said there is nothing that young people cannot do. However, the need of the hour is good governance. This means, a collaboration between the people and the government, he explained. Modi recalled M K Gandhi, whose campaign for freedom included every Indian wherever he or she was and whatever they were doing. He said the previous government believed in guaranteeing entitlements through law, but he would replace this and scrap as many irrelevant laws as possible.

While the Madison Square Garden event was almost entirely a Gujarati show, the Hindutva element was almost totally absent. The slogans were only about India.

Modi again referred to Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi as Mohanlal Karamchand Gandhi and referred rather pointedly to a large Bohra Muslim community, when he talked about inclusive banking and the rapacity of pawnbrokers “as the Bohra samaj is familiar with”.

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