The Wembley Stadium in London is no stranger to enthusiastic shouts, extravaganza and incredible energy of the crowd. November 13, 2015 was no different, with the stadium packed with 60,000 desperate and excited onlookers, and glittering with a massive firework show and the pinprick lights of thousands of camera phones.
This time however, general announcements were made in Hindi and Gujarati, besides English. There were no football players, but Bollywood and Hollywood stars, including Jay Sean performing in a stadium specially lit with the colours of the Union Jack and the Indian Tiranga. The evening was chilly, but the atmosphere in Wembley was electric and resounding with loud collective chants of “Modi! Modi! Modi! ”. After a rockstar welcome in the United States, Canada, Australia and the Emirates, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi received a big and warming reception in London.
Prime Minister David Cameron, greeting the massive crowd with “Namaste Wembley”, heralded a new relationship with the BRIC nation. He recognized the contribution of British Indians to the British economy, adding that “it won’t be long before there is a British Indian Prime Minister in 10 Downing Street”. In his speech, punctuated with Hindi phrases, he extended British support for India’s bid for a permanent seat in the United Nations Security Council and under a massive round of roaring applause told the crowd that under Mr Modi’s leadership, India’s “acche din” (quoting Mr Modi’s famous election slogan, meaning good days) are definitely coming.
Many identify with Mr Modi, the 65 year old who was once a poor vendor selling chai in a railway station but now leads the world’s largest democracy
Mr Modi delivered a historic speech to an exuberant crowd, which was emotionally charged to see the man who many believe is synonymous to hope, with numerous people dancing ecstatically wearing Modi masks. Beginning his speech in strongly accented English, Mr Modi heralded the winning combo of “Team India and Team Britain”, moving then to addressing the British Indian Diaspora in his signature oratory style, in Hindi, promising a clean, connected, strong India, and more foreign direct investment.
Inside the stadium, one could easily perceive that many see Modi as the saviour of 1.2 billion people. However, outside the stadium there was a small yet outspoken group of Sikh, Muslim, Kashmiri and Nepalese protesters, who called the highly controversial PM a “Hindu fascist”, a “terrorist” and even the Indian “Hitler”. Modi has been blamed for the 2002 Gujarat Massacre, recent violence in Punjab and growing cases of rape and religious intolerance across the country.
No country comes without its set of problems and specifically in highly diverse India, the “communal card” has always been played by supposedly secular political parties for petty political gains – leading to even greater levels of polarisation and communalism .The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) massive victory in the 2014 general election has irked traditional dynastic rulers of India’s Congress Party, which have left no stone unturned to defame the BJP government.
As we saw at Wembley last Friday, most of those abroad are happy with the BJP and they identify with Mr Modi, the 65 year old who was once a poor vendor selling chai in a railway station but now leads the world’s largest democracy. “British Indians put the ‘Great’ in Great Britain,” said Mr Cameron. Many of them moved decades ago from a poor, newly independent India and made it big for themselves in the UK. They see hope in this man, who they believe will rid the country of a long history of corruption and lead India to the place it deserves on the global platform. TMM