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Who’s Afraid of Tropical Storm Imelda? Not The Man Behind ‘Howdy, Modi!’ Event in Texas

Vijay Chauthaiwale, head of BJP’s foreign affairs cell, believes Sunday’s big gig in storm-hit Houston will be a success because of the dedication of hundreds of volunteers and thousands from the Indian diaspora who await the “homecoming” of their prime minister.

Aditya Sharma | News18.com@aditya_shz

Updated:September 20, 2019, 10:46 PM IST
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Who’s Afraid of Tropical Storm Imelda? Not The Man Behind ‘Howdy, Modi!’ Event in Texas
A billboard of PM Narendra Modi in Houston, Texas, ahead of his visit.

New Delhi: Tropical Storm Imelda had left the streets of Houston inundated on Friday, killing at least two people and marooning hundreds. Vijay Chauthaiwale would be hoping the roads are flooded two days from now, but with people.

“'Howdy, Modi!' is not a BJP event. It is a community-driven, non-partisan programme in Houston. But, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is committed to making this Indian diaspora an informal ambassador of his development agenda,” said the head of the BJP's foreign affairs cell.

Chauthaiwale, who has a PhD in microbiology and was with India’s Torrent Pharmaceuticals Ltd before joining Modi’s 2014 election war room, has been overseeing preparations for the Sunday mega event after having worked behind the scenes to ensure the success of Modi's visit to the US and outreach gigs four years ago.

“It is in the best interest of the BJP to nurture the Indian diaspora. They are our biggest soft power. PM Modi has been interested and extremely committed to make this diaspora an informal ambassador of his development agenda. They represent the Indian local community. For the BJP, it is important to nurture them along with the local community,” Chauthaiwale told News18.

Modi is slated to address a gathering of over 50,000 at the NRG Stadium in Houston on Sunday and, in a diplomatic coup, President Donald Trump will be by his side, with the promise of a “big announcement”.

While torrential rain has wreaked havoc in Houston and 2020 presidential nominee and RSS sympathiser Tulsi Gabbard will be absent from the event, BJP supporters in particular see Trump’s attendance as an all-time high in US-India relations. For the weekend, Houston will have the attention of India, and the world.

The destruction wrought by Imelda has forced Texas governor Greg Abbott to declare a state of emergency in 13 counties, but the confidence of the brains behind 'Howdy, Modi!' remains unshaken.

Chauthaiwale said the event is the result of the sheer dedication of hundreds of volunteers. Though he has been working with them round the clock, the BJP representative says he has a very limited role.

“Any such event is successfully organised because of the dedication of the volunteers. The entire credit of such an event goes to the local community, its leaders, organisations and volunteers. My only job is to coordinate and share my experiences vis-à-vis the dos and don’ts of a prime ministerial event,” he said.

Chauthaiwale noted that even the funding for the programme was managed locally, and the party had nothing to do with it. “Funds were collected through donations, big and small, in Houston. The BJP neither gives any money to them, nor does it take any,” he said.

When asked how the venue was picked, Chauthaiwale said it was “chosen because India sources fossil fuel from Houston and wishes to continue its interest in fossil fuel and clean energy”.

“Texas has a large Indian diaspora too. We hope to join the community in drawing the relationship closer,” he added.

The Sunday mega event has an army of 1,000 volunteers that will help 50,000 people celebrate the “homecoming” of their prime minister.

“Everything that we are attempting to pull off is possible because of the volunteers. Registration, allocation of seats, parking assistance and the cultural programme will be led by volunteers,” Chauthaiwale said.

The BJP functionary added that several Congressmen and governors will also attend the event. “Twelve people (not just politicians) are attending from India, apart from the PM’s entourage,” he said.

This would be the first time Trump and Modi share a stage together. The event would be the third meeting between the two leaders in three months – after the G20 summit in Japan in June and the G7 summit in France last month.

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