A group set up by unidentified people is organising the “Namaste Trump [Hello, Trump]” event on February 24 at the Motera cricket stadium in the city of Ahmedabad in Gujarat, according to media reports.
Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar told the media on Thursday that the Donald Trump Nagarik Abhivadan Samiti, or the Citizen Felicitation Committee for Donald Trump, was the event’s organiser, but did not provide more details. Top officials and other agencies involved in the preparations for the event said they were not aware of such a committee, reported The Hindu. An official from Ahmedabad told the newspaper that he learnt about existence of the committee “only today”.
The chairperson of the Gujarat State Non-Resident Gujaratis’ Foundation, Dhananjay Dwivedi, also pleaded ignorance. “I am unaware of any such committee,” he told Ahmedabad Mirror. “We deal with district level delegates and participants for the event.”
State BJP spokesperson Bharat Pandya said it was important to give Trump a “warm welcome” rather than give importance to the organiser of the event. “This visit will increase cultural and business relations between the two nations,” he added. “Lakhs of Gujaratis live in the US and the Namaste Trump event will increase their importance in the US.”
The Congress asked the government and Prime Minister Narendra Modi why the state government was spending “Rs 120 crore for a three-hour event organised by an unknown private entity”. The Opposition party’s spokesperson Randeep Singh Surjewala asked Modi who heads the felicitation committee. “When was the invitation extended to US president, and accepted?” he asked. “Why is President Trump then saying you have promised him a grand event with seven million people?”
Surjewala said “India values its visiting dignitaries” but asked the prime minister to note that “diplomacy is a serious government business, and not a series of photo-ops and event management tactics”.