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Love Affair NRIs In US Have With Narendra Modi Continues

The event was typical of such Modi events in US – the audience lapping up his speech but frequently interrupting it with slogans of Bharat Mata Ki Jai and Modi Modi.

Photo Credit : PTI

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The love affair that Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) in US have with Narendra Modi continues unabated. The community reception involved key NRIs from all over the country and I am told that 90 per cent of those invited managed to travel to DC at a short notice to attend this event.

The event was typical of such Modi events in US – the audience lapping up his speech but frequently interrupting it with slogans of Bharat Mata Ki Jai and Modi Modi. The usual stampede to get a photograph with him was missing as the organizers provided every one with an opportunity to have a photo with him in small groups.

What explains this enduring love affair? In Modi, the NRIs have found a leader who responds to the concerns they have had about India for a long time. One of the most jarring is lack of cleanliness of the country whether it is an upscale neighborhood or a Tier 2 city or a village. What is more jarring is the apparent indifference of everyone in India to the accumulated garbage right outside their door step.

Until Modi came along, this was not even an issue that merited discussion. Things have not changed overnight but the fact that Modi seems committed to bring about a change in the attitude of Indians towards cleanliness is a huge step forward.

Like folks at home, corruption in government has been an issue that has been uppermost in the minds of most NRIs. Everyone here has suffered at the hands of petty bureaucrats when buying or selling a property in India. Even to get basis services to their parents from the local government has been an exercise in frustration. NRIs who are senior executives in big companies and those who want to locate their research and development operations in India have not had much of a problem as that process is streamlined over the last 20 years.

However, companies that need extensive support from the government have horror stories to tell. CEO of a global semiconductor company once told me that governments all over the world pitch why his company should set up manufacturing operations in their country. In India, there used to be this additional complication – the key decision makers in government wondered what is in it for them personally. All this nonsense of corruption in high places has completely disappeared now. Using technology to bring transparency in low level government services is a hugely welcome initiative.

One other issue that bothers every NRI about India is the level of absolute poverty in the country. Having an outsider perspective and having traveled over the world, they do not buy the standard apologies – over population, colonial legacy or constraints of a democratic system. They believe that poverty in India is a consequence of failed economic policies over the last 70 years.

While there has been no radical departure from the prevailing economic wisdom, there has been a welcome emphasis on trusting the entrepreneur and enabling the entrepreneurs at all levels. This country understands that most of the jobs are created by small businesses and entrepreneurs and not by government or big companies. Modi’s emphasis on Start Up India and related policies get very high marks as a way to create jobs and reduce poverty.

His personal story of starting poor and ending up as the PM of the country is hugely endearing to the NRIs here. That is the prevailing mythology of US – that everyone has the opportunity to overcome the constraints of their circumstances and become the President of US a la Bill Clinton.

Finally, the reason Modi is popular among NRIs here is that he pays attention to them and makes them feel good about themselves. He makes a concerted effort to reach out to NRIs and invests significant time and resources in such outreach – no other leader of India has ever done so before. He acknowledges their commitment to India and swears that he will make an India of their dreams. Heady stuff for a NRI.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.


Venktesh Shukla

The author is former Chair of TiE Global and President of TiE Silicon Valley. Currently he manages a seed stage venture capital firm, Monta Vista Capital

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