Housefull: With 10 days to go, Modi’s US event is all sold out
Just days before Prime Minister Narendra Modi takes the stage at Madison Square Garden, the iconic Manhattan venue in New York, organisers declared it sold out on Wednesday.
Those left out can catch the event online or, if they are up to it, on one of those monster screens at the nearby Times Square – the biggest screen around, as promised by the organisers.
The venue, which has hosted rock stars, politicians and a Pope, can seat 20,000 people and 18,000 of them will go to the chosen ones -for free. The rest will be reserved for donors -someone has to pay for the event – and invitees.
The list of invitees is a work-in-progress, but it is said to include “several dozen” US lawmakers, who will take a break from their re-election campaigns to be at the event, and be seen.
Many of them have RSVPed – a commonly required courtesy – others are expected to do so. Anand Shah, spokesperson for the organisers, sought more time for the final tally.
Modi wanted to address US lawmakers at a joint session of Congress when he would be in DC, but Speaker John Boehner begged off citing midterm elections.
“Modi will get to speak to some of them now,” said a member of the organising committee, refusing to be identified so as to not jeopardise future dealings on Capitol Hill.
The Madison Square Garden event is at the heart of Modi’s visit for Indian-Americans, many of whom drove long distances once to watch him beamed live into highway hotels.
Modi, as chief minister of Gujarat, was not allowed to visit the US after being denied a visa in 2005 over his government’s alleged failure to stop the 2002 riots.
But he stayed in touch with them – a group that metastasized once he was projected by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) as its candidate for the post of prime minister – remotely, through live video feed.
Now that he is coming to the US, over 30,000 of them have applied to attend the event – coming from all over the country. But only 18,000 can be accommodated, and that’s the ceiling.
Shah said tickets, which were all free, were distributed through a network of organisations of Indian-Americans.
“We got in touch with about 800 organisations,” Shah said, “of which nearly 700 responded.” The organisers selected 400 of them and allocated specified number of tickets.
The ceiling of 18,000 was reached on Wednesday. This reporter was one of those turned down in the general category, applied through a community organisation.
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