Who are the mysterious organizers of 'Namaste Trump'? Controversies cloak Trump's India visit

Who is organising 'Namaste Trump' event?
A student paints on a canva faces of US President Donald Trump (L) and his wife Melania, in the street in Mumbai on Friday, ahead of the visit of US President in India. Photo: INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP

From the reports of Gujarat government building walls in Ahmedabad to "shield" Trump from the sight of slums to a video threat from terror outfit Jaish-e-Muhammad (JeM), US President Donald Trump's first state visit to India has been hitting headlines for all the wrong reasons.

The latest in the stream is the mysteries surrounding the organizers of 'Namaste Trump', a three-hour event to be organized at Ahmedabad.

The high-profile event will be organized at the newly built Motera cricket stadium in Ahmedabad, said to be the world's largest with a capacity to accommodate 1.10 lakh spectators.

Two days ago, US President Donald Trump had made a tall claim about the size of the crowd that will welcome him in Ahmedabad, saying Prime Minister Narendra Modi has told him that there will 10 million people to greet him on his arrival for his maiden visit to India.

Who is organising 'Namaste Trump' event?
A view of the Sardar Patel Gujarat Stadium in Motera as the final round of preparations underway for the US President Donald Trump's visit, in Ahmedabad. Photo: PTI

Unlike the "Howdy Modi" event held in Houston last September, no opposition leader has been invited to the 'Namaste Trump' event yet. The 'Howdy Modi' event was hosted by the Indian-American community for Modi last year.

Now, who are the organizers of this massive event?

According to MEA spokesperson Raveesh Kumar, the organizers of the event is neither the Gujarat government, nor the centre, but a private entity- Donald Trump Nagrik Abhinandan Samiti.

MEA's announcement came soon after the opposition leaders started raising questions at Gujarat government reportedly spending Rs 120 crores for the event.

The Telegraph India reported that Donald Trump Nagrik Abhinandan Samiti had no digital footprint till Thursday evening except for the media reports on Raveesh Kumar's press conference. The posters of the the event put up across Ahmedabad also do not bear the organizer's name.

Soon after the announcement, Congress chief spokesperson Randeep Surjewala posed a series of questions to Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Twitter.

"Dear PM, intriguing news from Ministry of External Affairs! Please state - Who is the President of Donald Trump Abhinandan Samiti? When was the invitation extended to US President and accepted? Why is President Trump then saying you have promised him a grand event with 7 million people," he asked.

"Dear PM, Why is Gujarat government then spending Rs 120 crore for a 3 hour event organized by an unknown private entity," Surjewala asked on Twitter.

In what is being billed as the great 'Indian road show', as many as 28 stages representing various parts of the country are being set up along Trump's route from the airport to the stadium in Ahmedabad.

Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said at a press briefing here on Wednesday that "the highlight of the programme in Ahmedabad will be the exhibition of India's rich and diverse culture and heritage to President Trump in a public manner that has few parallels in India or elsewhere."

President Trump and First Lady Melania are scheduled to travel to Ahmedabad, Agra and New Delhi on February 24 and 25.

Speaking to reporters at the Joint Base Andrews in Maryland on Tuesday, Trump said that Modi told him that "we'll have 7 million people between the airport and the event."

"So it's going to be very exciting. But he says between the stadium and the airport, we'll have about 7 million people. So it's going to be very exciting. I hope you all enjoy it," he said.

On Thursday, Trump upped the crowd size by three million at a 'Keep America Great' rally in Colorado.

"I hear, they are going to have 10 million people. They say anywhere from six to 10 million people are going to be showing up along the route to one of the largest stadiums in the world, the largest cricket stadium in the world, which is brand new and beautiful," said Trump, who is seeking re-election in the November presidential polls.

But according to a top civic official in Ahmedabad, the total population of the city is only around 70 lakh.

The authorities believe that between one to two lakh people are expected to line up along the 22-km route of the road show by Modi and Trump from the airport to the Motera cricket stadium.

"We believe that around one to two lakh people will gather to welcome the dignitaries during the road show," Ahmedabad Municipal Commissioner Vijay Nehra said on Thursday, contradicting the claims made by the US president.

Addressing his supporters, Trump spoke about his India visit and said the "Namaste Trump" rally in Ahmedabad would spoil him.

"Prime Minister Modi said, we will have 10 million people greet you. Here's my problem. We have a packed house. We have a lot of people, thousands of people that couldn't get in. It's going to look like peanuts from now on," he said.

"I'll never be satisfied with the crowd. If we have 10 million people in India, how can I be satisfied when we fill up like a 60,000-seat stadium? I am getting spoiled," Trump said.

One of Trump's supporters from the audience then suggested that he build a bigger stadium.

Ahead of Trump's visit, there have been reports on India and the US agreeing on a trade package as a precursor to a major trade deal.

India has been hitting the US "very hard" on trade with high tariffs for many years, Donald Trump complained ahead of the visit. He added that said he will "talk business" with PM Modi to promote American products.

Downplaying the expectation of a trade deal with India during his visit, Trump said the two countries could make a "tremendous" trade deal, but indicated that the talks on this might slow down if he did not get a good deal.

Trump's daughter Ivanka, son-in-law Jared Kushner and a galaxy of top US officials will be part of the high-level delegation accompanying him during the 36-hour visit.