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New York's Times Square resounds to 'Modi, Modi!'

May 16, 2014 14:50 IST

New York's Times Square resounds to 'Modi, Modi!'

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Aseem Chhabra

NaMo supporters in New York and New Jersey step out to celebrate the BJP's election victory, reports Aseem Chhabra. 

They chanted "Modi, Modi" in Times Square as Arnab Goswami's show was being projected on a giant screen along the western face of the One Times Square building, from where the giant crystal ball drops on New Year's Eve.

Times Now was live broadcasting Goswami's show -- although there was no sound. But there was no shortage of noise. Construction crews were digging up just half a block away outside the NASDAQ building, and young supporters of Narendra Modi -- nearly 200 of them -- were overjoyed as the Times Now ticker quickly kept adding to the number of seats where the National Democratic Alliance candidates were leading.

The loudest cheers from the Modi supporters came when the large screen quickly showed the BJP-led NDA alliance had swept Delhi, Gujarat and Rajasthan.

There were samosas, chai and Indian biscuits courtesy of the organisers of the event -- the Federation of Indian Associations whose members were dressed as if they were about to receive the prime minister-elect right there.

In fact, they even had a red carpet laid out in the enclosed area where only the organisers, along with members of Overseas Friends of BJP and some press, were allowed to enter.

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Image: The scene at Times Square, New York City.
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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New York's Times Square resounds to 'Modi, Modi!'

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Aseem Chhabra

At 11.30 pm Basanth Lalchand, a project manager with Canon Cameras, stood with a group of his friends. He seemed excited by the results on the television monitor. "There's a lot of positivity," he said. "India needs a change."

Sanjit Lavsi was visiting from Ahmedabad.  He flew to New York on April 30, the same day Gujarat went to the polls. So he missed the chance to vote, but was celebrating the Modi win in Times Square.

Lavsi's brother-in-law Kushal Choksi lives in Jersey City. "It's a monumental election," he said. "One of the most important elections in my lifetime."

"I am from Gujarat and I have seen his work first hand," Choksi said about Modi. He added that he was very hopeful that Modi could bring the Gujarat success story to all of India.

When asked why he thought Modi's opponents feared his rise to power, Choksi dismissed it as media propaganda. "Those fears," he said, "are baseless."

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Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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New York's Times Square resounds to 'Modi, Modi!'

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Aseem Chhabra

Earlier, a couple of hundred Modi supporters had gathered for a free meal and drinks at the Royal Alberts Palace in Edison, NJ. The menu consisted of rice, naan, chicken curry, chana, potato curry and fresh jalebis. The results had yet to be broadcast and people mingled freely in the large banquet hall, with round tables set up for dinner and a giant television screen.

'Shri Narendra Modi's victory,' the sign read on the television screen. The next sentence read: 'NaMo invades Delhi to conquer India.'

"Some of the hype is created by the Congress," Sharvil Desai said, as he addressed the issue of why some people felt afraid of Modi. A member of the OFBJP, Desai wore a Modi t-shirt at the dinner.

"They are the people who keep saying over and over again that he was the mastermind of the Gujarat riots (of 2002)," Desai he added. "I don't believe that since he had just become the CM and maybe since it was his first time, he could not take the action right away."

Raj Karakia, another guest at the event, expected a lot of changes from a Modi-led government. "Infrastructure will go up, businesses will go up, more jobs will be created," he said. He worked in finance and acknowledged that he had always been a BJP supporter. "This is a dream come true. Finally they got a right candidate."

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Image: Celebrations under way at the Royal Alberts Palace in Edison, New Jersey.
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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Sandip Gandhi, a medical doctor, said Modi's selection had to do with the success of his administration in Gujarat. "We have seen him personally working in Gujarat," Dr Gandhi said. "The main thing is that when Pakistan starts thinking, when China starts thinking, when America starts thinking it is Modi. That makes a difference for India."

Kakaria, Dr Gandhi and their friend Umesh Talati also stressed that Modi's win should not create fear in the minds of those who oppose him. "If you do something wrong, then you are afraid," Talati said.

"Yes, some people are accusing him of being a bureaucrat or a dictator, that's a different story," Dr Gandhi said. "But don't you think if half a billion people do not have food, helping them is more important than freedom of speech for 100 people? If I have to sacrifice a little bit of my freedom and half a billion people are getting food, then I will be happy."

Modi's election, Dr Gandhi added, had made a big difference in the lives of the Muslim women of Godhra, where the 2002 riots started. "Nowadays Muslim women of Godhra consider Modi as their God because their husbands are coming home in the evening with money," he said. "The area that was called the mini Pakistan of Godhra is now the safest part of the city."

Talati had the opposite reaction to the Muslim area of Godhra. During a recent visit to the city he was told by friends that as a Hindu he could not go to the area late in the evening.


Image: Albert Jassani, second from right, owner of the Royal Alberts Palace, New Jersey.
Photographs: Paresh Gandhi/Rediff.com

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