The ‘wall’ reached Ahmedabad even before US President Donald Trump could land in India, setting the social media on fire. The Modi-fied warriors, citing ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’ – guest is god – argued there was nothing wrong in erecting a wall to hide the slums since the guest must only see the best. Some even praised the Gujarat administration for showing compassion by not demolishing the slums.
That Narendra Modi ruled the state for close to 15 years and has repeatedly boasted about the ‘Gujarat Model’ was not relevant enough to ask why the slums still exist in the first place.
The ‘wall‘ led to many memes and jokes. Why do we need a wall? Just blindfold President Trump during the ride and take him to the Motera Stadium for a ‘surprise’, suggested one.
So a wall has been constructed to hide a slum, crores spent to 'beautify' roads of Ahmedabad, Motera stadium still not been inaugurated; why all this effort to hide the great 'Gujarat Model'?#વિકાસ_છુપાવી_દીધો_છે pic.twitter.com/kJPuzAfews
— Ruchira Chaturvedi (@RuchiraC) February 22, 2020
The Indian government could have avoided building wall to hide Gujarat's slums from Trump, instead give him a VR headset on which scenes from Switzerland, New Zealand or Kerala are played. #wallindia #GujaratModel #TrumpIndiaVisit
Image courtesy: PlanetPOV pic.twitter.com/jnMGA71by0
— Jithin Samgeorge (@jithinsamgeorge) February 15, 2020
Keep a watch on the wall, or else someone might paint on it an advertisement carrying sexual undertones, quipped another. One meme had Trump asking: ‘Hey Great Wall of Gujarat, please tell me ‘Gujarat Model’ hidden behind you.”
He is building a wall for your love. pic.twitter.com/tAAkrobckH
— I stand with Shaheen Bagh (@GulRose_views) February 15, 2020
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A spoof video of a ‘Modi-bhakt’ has also gone viral. A young advocate from Bhavnagar, nicknamed Jay (Hindustani), uses bizarre arguments to defend the construction of the wall — from calling those criticising Modi as ‘deshdrohi (anti-national)’ to describing the people living in the slums as ‘rich people posing as poor to defame Modi after losing their black money to demonetisation’. Jay’s riff offers a peek into the world of ‘blind believers’ for whom everything that the Modi government does is an ‘achievement’, a ‘masterstroke’.
An expensive Namaste
The event was originally named ‘Kem chho, Trump’ in tune with ‘Howdy, Modi!’ in which the PM was greeted by 50,000 mostly Indian-Americans in Houston, Texas last September. But the use of a chaste Gujarati greeting provided ammo for more jokes as several people started speculating what the event would be called had Trump been visiting Rajkot or Mahesana or Surat instead — places that have their distinct local flavours of the Gujarati language.
Especially hilarious was an assumption for a similar event in Surat. It isn’t being mentioned here because the Gujarati spoken in Surat is known for its liberal use of cuss words. Not surprisingly, the administration decided to change the name of the event to ‘Namaste Trump’.
A guide on how to hide your failures.
Gujarat civic body builds wall to shut out slum on Donald Trump route. pic.twitter.com/UjirqyeolH
— KANPUR NEWS REPORTER (@siddiqkanpuria) February 13, 2020
Some critics pointed out that the US government didn’t spend a penny for ‘Howdy, Modi!’ event and that it was entirely funded by the non-resident Indians (NRIs). On the other hand, Trump’s visit to Ahmedabad alone would cost about Rs 100 crore, including proposed expenditure of Rs 1 crore for decorative lighting at Motera Stadium, even though it’s not entirely sure if the US president would stay at the reconstructed cricket stadium after daylight.
Moreover, about Rs 30 crore was reportedly spent in 15 days on the roads in the area around the cricket stadium whereas the total annual budget for roads in all of Motera is Rs 3 crore and the condition of these roads have been pathetic for years. Some pointed out the work still pending for years.
This is the pic of NH in padubidri village which is under your constituency .If Gujarat Gov't can take just few days to completely modify their city for Trump's visit why can't you complete this road in 2 year's for your people.@ShobhaBJP @lalajibjp pic.twitter.com/Il1INXHEMQ
— Anonymous (@Anonymo71526036) February 22, 2020
Fir sir, aapke constituency Bhavnagar ke highway roads kyo naahin bann rahe hai ? 6th largest district in Gujarat but most ignored in terms of infrastructure? Thoda to kuch karo .. hundreds dying every year due to accidents on this road !!
— Vipul S. (@vipulshah729) February 20, 2020
No room for CM
Hoardings for ‘Namaste Trump’ event, featuring images of Modi and the US president, have also come up on many streets of Ahmedabad. Few of them carry the photo of US First Lady Melania Trump, prompting some to comment on the ‘empty space’ next to PM Modi. When Chinese President Xi Jinping had come to Ahmedabad, the hoardings featured Anandiben Patel, then chief minister of Gujarat, along with Jinping and Modi.
But this time, Chief Minister Vijay Rupani is missing from the hoardings of ‘Namaste Trump’. The theme selected for different hoardings is ‘the relationship between two biggest democracies’. A hoarding with Trump and Modi declared, ‘Majboot Netritva, Majboot Loktantra’ (Strong Leadership, Strong Democracy) but a joke suggested replacing majboot (strong) with majboor (helpless).
Trump, in his true style, recently gloated over Facebook’s “great honour” declaring him number one in terms of popularity. “Number 2 is Prime Minister Modi of India,” he said in a tweet, saying Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg had recently stated as such. The only thing is that while Modi has 44 million followers on Facebook, Trump has 25 million followers.
Great honor, I think? Mark Zuckerberg recently stated that “Donald J. Trump is Number 1 on Facebook. Number 2 is Prime Minister Modi of India.” Actually, I am going to India in two weeks. Looking forward to it!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 14, 2020
Speaking of millions, Trump told reporters at the White House that ‘(Modi) thinks we will have five to seven million people just from the airport to the new stadium (Motera Stadium)”. The total population of Ahmedabad is about eight million. Newspapers reporting the numbers left it for the readers to decide which of the two leaders goofed up while converting ‘lakh’ into ‘million’. Critics on social media advised not to be surprised by such claims, making a point to note the adversarial relationship that both Trump and Modi share with facts.
It was being widely assumed that the trip would fetch trade deals worth billions of dollars for India. But Trump put a dampener of sorts, stating clearly that he was “saving big trade deal with India for later”. Trump’s statement was soon plastered all over the social media with captions that read: ‘Just friendship. Nothing else’.
Experiments in Gandhi land
According to initial planning, Trump was supposed to pay a brief visit to Sabarmati Ashram. As such, parking of vehicles at the Ashram was banned 10 days ahead of the visit and a metal detector had been placed at the main entrance, causing great inconvenience to the visitors. Temporary structures were erected inside the Ashram premises for the guests and mediapersons. With Trump now scheduled to visit Sabarmati Ashram, what will still remain a matter of satirical speculation is what Trump will do with the author of My Experiments With Truth.
Even with zealous, Big Brother-ish security apparatus, the general refrain among people of Ahmedabad has been that VVIPs like Donald Trump should visit their city more often and travel to various other areas.
That road use to be single lane, filled with pits and dirty… With #trump schedule to visit Ahmedabad it puffed and immaculate itself with a glitter..
— Shanu Shah (@authorshanu) February 22, 2020
The fact that the administration would ensure quick, timely completion of many long-pending infrastructural work is worth all the harassment in the name of VVIP security.
The article has been updated to reflect that Donald Trump will visit the Sabarmati Ashram, which was unconfirmed earlier.
The author is a senior columnist and writer based in Ahmedabad. Views are personal.
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