President Trump to attend ‘Howdy Modi’ rally in Houston

President Donald Trump and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi embrace as Modi departs the White House June 26, 2017 in Washington, D.C. (Getty Images)

In what may be considered a monumental public relations coup d’etat, The Texas India Forum, organizers of the ‘Howdy Modi,’ have confirmed that President Donald J. Trump will be attending Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s public rally in Houston, Texas, on Sept. 22.

Organizers said that President Trump will also address the over 50,000 attendees who have already confirmed to attend the event. In a press release, organizers said that the attendees at the “Howdy, Modi! Shared Dreams, Bright Futures” community summit “represent 48 states, coming together to emphasize the shared values and aspirations of two great nations whose partnership is important to global peace, prosperity, and human progress.”

The event is unique, it said, “bringing together the president of the world’s most influential democracy, the prime minister of the world’s largest democracy, and a bipartisan delegation of governors, members of Congress, mayors, and other public officials.”

It is quite unprecedented for the President of the United States to address a community rally alongside a visiting head of government. And, ironically, for President Trump, who often brags about number of people at his rallies, the Houston rally might turn out to be bigger than any of his campaign events.

More pertinently, President Trump’s presence at the rally, which has been organized primarily to showcase Modi’s popularity in the Indian-American community, not only symbolizes the growing political influence of Indian-Americans, but also underscores the importance of U.S.-India relationship, notwithstanding the number of irritants in the relations since Trump came into office, particular on issues of trade and immigration.

Meanwhile, news reports have said that some 60 U.S. lawmakers are likely to be present at the event, including Indian-American Representatives Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Illinois, and Ami Bera, D-California.

Although initial news reports said that Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), will also attend the Houston event, a Organization for Minorities of India press release, quoting an anonymous source within Gabbard’s 2020 presidential campaign has said that congresswoman has refused an invitation to join the rally.

“Gabbard’s decision to drop out of the event follows on the heels of Congressman Ro Khanna’s statement, issued last month, that “it’s the duty of every American politician of Hindu faith to stand for pluralism, reject Hindutva, and speak for equal rights for Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Buddhists, and Christians.” the OMI press release said. “Her action marks a significant change in engagement with India’s controversial premier considering she has previously met with him on four occasions.”

Whether Gabbard will again change her mind following President Trump’s attendance, remains to be seen.

Last week, California Congressman Brad Sherman sent a letter to members of Congress on Aug. 23, asking them to join the Sept. 22 event. The report, quoting Sherman’s letter said that 50,000 people will be attending the event which will be broadcast to more than 300 million people. It will also “include a segment honoring the great work of human rights leaders Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.,” letter said, according to a Daily Beast report. Sherman also promised his colleagues “a bit of airtime” and said they will be introduced on stage right before Modi’s talk, the report said.

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