Modi—The Rock Star
During his first year in office Indian Prime Minister Modi has wooed and wowed the overseas Indians, writes Kul Bhushan
The Indian Diaspora is a major constituency and support for Prime Minister Narendera Modi. During his visits abroad since taking over the reins of the government a year ago, Modi has reinforced his rapport with overseas Indians in most of the countries he has toured. Significantly, he built on the close and personal relations he had with many overseas Indians as the Chief Minister of Gujarat. Attending to their long standing grouses, he offered them many sops.
During this period, Modi toured abroad to attract Gujarati and also overseas Indians’ investments to Gujarat. After becoming Prime Minister, he promoted the entire subcontinent as an attractive destination for overseas Indians to visit, invest and contribute their skills and expertise. Significantly, he has also addressed their long standing complaints about speedy short term visas, lifelong visas by offering Overseas Indians Citizenship (OIC), granting visas for Non-Indians spouses and visa on arrival facility for the American citizens and electronic arrival authorisation. He merged Person of Indian Origin (PIO) and OIC to create a single category by removing the discrepancies and helping those whose spouses are of different nationality. NRIs will not report to the police if they stay in India for long periods. Visa applications can be made electronically and visa processing has been outsourced to issue faster and hassle free visas.
These benefits followed the intense lobbying for Modi before India’s general elections by overseas Indians in their countries of residence. No Indians election has generated more interest among the 27 million overseas Indians than the latest one. Overseas Indians seem to have a stake in Modi’s victory as they were fed up of the non-stop news of massive corruption scandals, lethargic government response and a docile foreign policy. Modi set the tone for his government by declaring that he would implement proactive policies. And he has. Most political analysts comment that he has given an edge to India’s foreign policy.
His coming out appearance for overseas Indians happened in New York when Madison Square Garden overflowed with American ‘desi’ Indians as he was dubbed the rock star after his hour-long off-the-cuff speech that had everyone spell bound and rooting for him. Here was the new face and dynamic energy of India as Modi urged them to help develop their mother or grandmother land. This is not a new message from all former Indian leaders to overseas Indians but its smart packaging laced with homely anecdotes made a difference.
Instead of covering up for India as ‘a poor country’ as mentioned by former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in Washington, Modi declares India to be a young country with the youngest population and a 3D – Demography, Demand and Democracy – dividend. And he goes on to promote his major new initiatives such as Clean Ganga, Swacch Bharat’ or Clean India, Toilets for All, Digital India, Smart Cities, Bullet Trains, among others. Appealing to NRIs at a personal level, he invited them to join his numerous websites to suggest ideas and new projects for India’s progress. In the same vein, he urged them to persuade at least five of their friends to visit India to boost tourism and employment in India.