It was a meeting in Ahmedabad in June with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar that set the ball rolling on the ‘Howdy Modi’ event in Houston, Texas. Over lunch, one point came up: in the event the Prime Minister went to the U.S., could anything be organised? There was no shortage of ideas as community leaders from various parts of the U.S. were flooding us with e-mails and suggestions over the phone. Chicago and Houston were the two obvious choices since they had a strong Indian diaspora presence. Houston won and sometime in mid-July, the decision was conveyed to me. I caught a flight to Houston. I knew we didn’t have much time.
Over three to four days in Houston, I met various community leaders and core supporters, giving them an insight into how to pull off a successful public event with the Prime Minister as the star attraction. The wheels began turning and by the time I returned to Houston in August, the ground work had been done. Almost all systems were in place—the NRG stadium booked, an army of volunteers organised, a website up and running and registrations opened for people wanting to attend.
Detailed instructions were sent to every person on how to reach the venue, their parking lots were identified, also their seats. People were encouraged to car-pool, 150 buses were arranged, their routes and stops meticulously planned and communicated in advance. Arrangements were made for subsidised food to be served in the stadium.
Over the next 10 days other details were hammered out, in terms of which Congressmen, state governors and other elected officials would be invited. Care was taken to ensure it remained a bipartisan event. The formal announcement came from the White House that President Donald Trump would attend and within 24 hours their advance team arrived. They were pleasantly surprised by our preparations and were very cooperative, trying to understand our planning and our view point that this was a community event. They were equally keen on making it a success, even down to agreeing to a seal on the podium depicting the U.S. and Indian flags, not the POTUS seal.
Barring a brief delay at the start of the programme, everything went off without a hitch. People started pouring in from 6 am. There was order and discipline in the stadium. The two leaders struck a chord with the public and there was a splendid climax in the ‘victory lap’ around the stadium. Much has been said and written about my role, which as I have said repeatedly, cannot be credited to one person. More than 1000 volunteers worked day and night over many days to pull off the spectacle. The phone calls and messages I continue to receive from all over the world testify to the success of ‘Howdy Modi’.
A word of gratitude to my friends Manoj and Anand who played pivotal roles in ensuring all dots leading to the event were connected. Also Arun Kankani who worked quietly in the background, always focused and patient. My deep gratitude to scores of others who contributed to this event.
(The author is the head of BJP’s Foreign Affairs Cell. This is an edited version of the author’s Facebook post. Excerpted with permission. Views expressed in this article are personal.)