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India’s Prime Minister Modi, President Trump Tout Achievements At Houston Rally

A large crowd showed up for the ‘Howdy, Modi!’ event at NRG Stadium.

Mostly Indian Americans filled NRG Stadium Sunday for a rally for Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, dubbed “Howdy, Modi!”

President Donald Trump also traveled to Houston as an invited speaker for the rally.

Organizers said 50,000 people registered for the sold-out event. Cars lined up around several blocks hours before the Sunday morning start.

It was a festive mood with a Hare Krishna band playing outside and people waving Indian and American flags.

The event started with a cultural program that included Indian music and dances and some Bollywood-like acts highlighting the Indian-American experience.

Several elected officials made an appearance, including Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz of Texas, and U.S. representatives of both parties from across the country.

Cornyn highlighted the economic and cultural ties between Texas and India.

Finally, Prime Minister Modi entered the stage to dramatic music and a standing ovation.

“Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome his excellency, the honorable prime minister of India, Shri Narendra Modi,” the announcer trumpeted, almost like at a boxing match.

But Modi wouldn’t take the microphone for another hour, when he introduced President Trump, whom he said he admires.

“I present to you my friend, a friend of India, a great American president, Mr. Donald Trump,” he said, leaving dramatic pauses between each phrase.

The crowd cheered.

Trump reciprocated the kind words and praised the prime minister and his policies.

“With the help of Prime Minister Modi’s pro-growth reforms, India has lifted nearly 300 million people out of poverty,” he said.

But primarily, both leaders spoke about what they considered their own achievements. Trump touted the strong U.S. economy and his policies regarding immigration, even managing to attack his political opponents. He also praised America’s relationship with India.

Modi lauded his efforts in modernizing India by bringing sanitation to rural areas and improving the banking system. 

After the hours-long event, some of the people who came to watch said what they like about Modi is that he’s changing things.

Kumud Patel said she isn’t a fan of Trump, but “Modi is Modi.”  

“He’s more into action rather than just talking,” she said. “Because I’ve seen it. In the past 10 years things have come up a lot.”

Vishal Gulati, who said Trump and Modi are similar in their appeal to the common people, called Modi “a tremendous leader for the entire country.” 

Outside, protest organizers estimated more than 12,000 people came to show their disdain of Modi and his government. 

In particular, many criticize his policies regarding the majority-Muslim state of Jammu and Kashmir. Modi stripped the state of its autonomy last month.

“The whole world knows that he is the most notorious human rights violator and the only political leader in the world that was once banned by the United States, Canada (and) Europe,” Gurpatwant Pannun with Sikhs for Justice said.

Suzan Adjani, who grew up in the Muslim faith in Mumbai, said Modi discriminates against non-Hindu people.

“Since Modi has been in power he’s killing the dream of secular India. He is pushing ‘Hindutva,’ which really is a name for Muslim fascism,” she said. “He is a divisive person. He is sowing the seeds of hatred.”

Adjani admitted that her opinion is in the minority. She said that’s because Indians tend to support causes based on their religion. 

Nearly 80% of Indians are Hindu.

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Florian Martin

Business Reporter

Florian Martin is currently the News 88.7 business reporter. Florian’s stories can frequently be heard on other public radio stations throughout Texas and on NPR nationwide. Some of them have earned him awards from Texas AP Broadcasters, the Houston Press Club, National Association of Real Estate Editors, and Public Radio...

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