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Ahmedabad all decked-up for the visit of the POTUS

Rutam Vora Ahmedabad | Updated on February 21, 2020 Published on February 21, 2020

Gearing up Rapid Action Force personnel stand guard along a road as part of security preparedness for US President Donald Trump’s visit, in Ahmedabad on Friday   -  PTI

Namaste Trump to see over 1 lakh people gather at Motera Stadium

A morning stroll in the Motera neighbourhood in northern part of Ahmedabad gives an idea of the excitement in the air, with silky-smooth, freshly-laid roads, scent of fresh paint from decorated walls and people charged-up in anticipation of the US President’s visit.

“Trump is coming. We are waiting to see him,” a youth outside an Amul milk parlour said. When asked the reason for his excitement about the high profile visit, this undergraduate student says, “He (Trump) is the talk of the town. We need to see him.” The sentiment echoes the feelings of most people in the neighbourhood, who are set to line up on the sides of roads on Monday afternoon. Clearly, Ahmedabad is all decked up to host the mother of all public gatherings.

The President of the United States Donald Trump, First Lady Melania Trump and family will touch down on Indian soil on February 24 - nearly by noon - at Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport, where they will be received by the Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

‘Namaste Trump’

On the less-than-36-hour-visit to India, Trump’s first stop is Ahmedabad, where he will join Prime Minister Modi to address a record-breaking crowd at the newly renovated Motera cricket stadium. The event - Namaste Trump will mirror the Howdy Modi event held in Houston, US last year in September.

 

The two leaders - touted to be the No1 and No2 in terms of their Facebook followers - will start out with a 9-kilometre roadshow from the airport to reach the Stadium —named after “the architect of united India”, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. The cricket stadium with a capacity of over 1.15 lakh is considered a modern engineering marvel.

The Stadium has a perfect circular seating arrangement an unobstructed view from any angle. The seating capacity has toppled Australia’s Melbourne Cricket Ground as the world’s largest. It is also India’s first CII- Indian Green Building Council’s Gold Rated Stadium.

Modi and Trump will address the packed stadium with people brought from various parts of Gujarat, India and abroad for the razzmatazz. The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) chief Sourav Ganguly had tweeted expressing his eagerness to personally witness the mega show. Among other prominent attendees will include celebrities from Bollywood and prominet personalities from art, literature, culture, business and NRIs. The responsibility for crowd mobilisation and management has been assigned to the Gujarat BJP party cadre as well as local trade associations and non-government organisations (NGOs). While there is no official word on the spend on the entire event, rough estimates put the figure at ₹100 crore.

 

While the US President in his latest statement has expressed anticipation to participate in the roadshow, officials in Gujarat administration have claimed that over 1.2 lakh people are likely to be lined up along the route.

“There will be 28 stages to showcase the cultural heritage of India including Gujarat’s garba dance and other folk arts of different States. This will be the most fascinating part of the roadshow and give memorable moments to the US President. We expect about 1.2 lakh people at the Stadium. This is unprecedented,” said an official engaged in the arrangements of the Namaste Trump event. Notably, Chinese President Xi Jinping, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu were also given grand welcome during their respective visits to Ahmedabad over the past five years.

Surveillance and security

The Ahmedabad City Police and Gujarat Police department are having a tough time handling the security arrangement for the leaders of the two largest democracies. While sophisticated technology including drones and video surveillance is being deployed to keep a round-the-clock watch on the route and the event venue, there are over 11,000 security personnel on guard.

Mock drills have been conducted along the route. The local police is closely coordinating with world’s most sophisticated security agency - US Secret Service, India’s Special Protection Group and the National Security Guards for synchronised operations during the roughly three-hour stay of US President.

Protests and controversies

Meanwhile, the high-profile visit is not spared from the controversies and protests. The local administration is blamed its insensitive handling of slum-dwellers, who have been either asked to evict their premises or are being blocked from view behind a concrete wall, so as to make it “safe” for the visiting US guests. But the Ahmedabad Municipal Commissioner, Vijay Nehra has rubbished the charges stating that the action on the slums was part of an anti-encroachment drive initiated about two months ago, when there was no word on Trump visit. On the other hand, the Opposition Congress has threatened to stage a protest right outside the Stadium against the ruling BJP at the Centre for not protecting job quotas for Backward communities, SCs and STs.

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Published on February 21, 2020
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